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According to USA Triathlon 5.10, there is no drafting (a.) (being in a 7m x 2m zone behind the rider in front of you) except in the case you are passing (h.1.), in which case you have 15s to pass (g.) as measured by your front wheel.

My primary question is, what happens if the rider in front of you happens to decide 5 sec into your passing attempt to pass the rider in front of them -- you've encroached their drafting zone but are going to same speed as them so are unable to pass them within 15 sec? If you drop back you're penalized, but if you continue to attempt to pass you're also, still, penalized?

Also, please address whether during the passing scenario above whether you can immediately enter the draft zone of the rider in front of you without first moving 2m to the left (i.e. can you ride up directly behind the rider, then move to the side to pass)?

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    I don't have references to back up, but when I started doing tris I was paranoid on this point because cycling is my weakest leg and so I asked questions of the race directors for clarification on drafting. The point of the rule is to prevent intentional drafting and intentional disregard of the rule against drafting. If the described scenario happened repeatedly to you, that would indicate a lack of attempt to avoid drafting. – Val Feb 14 '17 at 19:34
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    I agree in that I figured the gist of the rule is to prevent intentional drafting, but I don't have certain/documented evidence (or quote) that an official wouldn't enforce the scenario described. I ASSUME that if you attempt a pass, and that rider immediately starts their pass, that if you back off you won't be penalized. (If this isn't answered I'll update in a few months when I do my first Tri and ask...) – user12853 Feb 15 '17 at 16:19
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According to a USA Triathlon judge whom I asked in person: even if the rider ahead, whom you are attempting to pass, speeds up during your overtake, YOU MUST still complete your overtake. If not you are liable for a penalty. In his [joking] words: "it's a race after all" :)

To address the second question, refer to 5.10.h.(1): yes, you can enter the draft zone during the overtake.

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