4. Involuntary draft
The rulebook governing the pro race says athletes must space themselves during the bike by at least 10 meters. In Kona, however, WTC enforces a more strict policy (full explanation coming next week). They also have to move to the side of the rider in front to pass. These rules are in place to prevent drafting and, for the most part, they are successful. But a large pack of cyclists—especially in the men’s race—clusters during the first half of the ride. This group, 19 strong in 2011, provides both mental and physical relief for the athletes who make the cut.
We re-created legal pack riding conditions and measured the watts required to keep pace with the fastest men riding alone and with the shelter of a group. The results are compelling: Riding at a legal distance saved our test subject 12 watts, enough power to cut approximately 4:30 over 112 miles.