First Take: Is RaceRanger a game changer?
In short, Yes. RaceRanger is a Game Changer for non-drafting triathlon, and if you love triathlon you should be excited about the positive impact it could have on racing! To be a success it will require the onboarding of race organisers, the question being at the moment is do they have the budget or willingness to invest in this revolutionary technology.
What is RaceRanger you might ask, it’s a new tool for monitoring and penalising drafting in non-drafting triathlon races. Essentially, all bikes would have an emitter and a receiver on the front and back ends, with the emitter on the bike in front informing the cyclist behind when they enter the draft zone & the time they have to overtake. Concurrently, the system can be used remotely by referees to track all the bikes, receiving notifications when drafting infringements occur.
Check out the video below for a visual explanation:
Professional and amateur athletes alike have been calling for years for race organisers to address the drafting issue in long distance triathlon. The rules vary from one race to another, but typically the illegal draft zone varies from 8m to 20m depending on the race organiser. The uptake of RaceRanger will have a positive impact for both professional and amateur athletes alike. In the Pro fields you often hear of draft packs riding faster than solo uber-bikers, this is because the athletes ride at approximately 12m (usually less) from each other, and at this distance there is a significant advantage when you ride 3rd or 4th or further back in the line. This allows athletes to take turns, riding faster but saving energy in the process. Using RaceRanger will have the double benefit of ensuring riders respect the 12m distance (minimising draft advantage) and forcing athletes to respect the overtaking rule – if you enter the draft zone you have to overtake the rider in front of you within a specified amount of time – with this being automatically tracked by RaceRanger it will encourage athletes to avoid encroaching on the draft zone, creating a fairer race in the process. Moreover, RaceRanger will allow referees to monitor behaviours without athletes knowing they are being watched, apply penalties correctly with the relevant data to back it up, and target their attention towards athletes who have a tendency to infringe the rules.
In the amateur ranks the uptake of RaceRanger is likely to be less prevalent to start with, without financial incentive to invest I can’t see race organisers purchasing enough units for the entire field unless they recharge the cost back into the entry fees. Regardless, if RaceRanger is used in the amateur ranks it will have similar positive benefits to the professional races, encouraging more honest racing, preventing big draft packs and allowing referees to target their attention and apply penalties objectively based on the data they have available.
Created by two triathletes, RaceRanger has also integrated a number of great features which demonstrate their astute knowledge of the sport. The RaceRanger units can be programmed to have certain ‘no-policing zones’ such as the first 5km after the swim or steep climbs where drafting is often inevitable or irrelevant. Moreover, race organisers can choose to either auto-assign penalties when a unit detects an infringement (it will flash yellow and audibly alert the rider) or simply track from a distance and assign ‘manual’ penalties via their referees. Once a Penalty is awarded, the penalty tents are automated as well with screens showing the bib numbers of penalised athletes and also counting down automatically their penalty time once they enter the penalty tent.
Overall I’m excited to see where this technology goes, and hope to see the positive impact it can have on non-drafting triathlon races in the future.