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SARA'S Spin
Know the Rules and Follow Them
By Sara McLarty
After 20 years of racing and participating in more than 250 individual triathlons, I have never received a penalty or been disqualified. There is only one explanation for this — I know the rules and I follow them. USA Triathlon has a long list of rules for each section of triathlon: the swim, the bike, the run, the transition area, etc. Let’s review the major rules so that you can race penalty-free.


The most basic rule of any race is to stay on the course.
You must swim around all the buoys, bike in the correct lane and run around all the cones. Don’t cut corners, don’t turn early and don’t cheat.



You must start the race in your assigned wave. If you have a pink cap, start with the other pink caps. If you start the race in a different wave, you might receive a penalty.


The transition area might look like a lot of chaos and craziness, but each person is assigned a small section. You must put all your race equipment in the space around your racked bike. Don’t toss your cap and goggles on the ground until you arrive at your bike.


Helmets are very important, and USA Triathlon rules state that “helmets must be worn at all times while on your bike.” Just follow my simple guidelines to be penalty-free:


Step 1: Buckle your helmet on your head before you touch your bike.


Step 2: Unbuckle your helmet after you have racked your bike.


Drafting rules are confusing, even to a pro like myself. Here are three simple things to remember when you are cycling in a triathlon:


1. Always ride on the right side of the road.


2. Leave space for three invisible bikers between you and the cyclist in front.


3. Pass other cyclists on the left side (call out: “On your left!”).


Make sure you have your race number before you leave the transition area for the run. It can be pinned to your T-shirt or shorts or snapped onto a race belt. Your race number identifies you for the photographers, the race officials and the timing crew. Without a race number, no one can tell who you are.


My favorite rule is “no unsportsmanlike conduct.”
This rule means you must be nice to other people when you race. Say encouraging words to your competitors, thank the volunteers and staff and compete with a big smile!


Follow these rules, and I’ll see you at the finish line with no penalties.


Sara McLarty is an elite U.S. triathlete. Learn more about Sara at www.usantc.com or www.saramclarty.com


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