- Cases where it is nearly impossible to prevent drafting from occurring in the vast majority of people racing
- Cases where passing large groups of riders all moving at similar speeds within a single lane becomes a game of tetris to find out where your little piece of a bike can fit between the other objects
- Passing on the right, other times between people, and worst of all, crossing over the double yellow lines into oncoming traffic, simply because there was no room to successfully execute a pass
- No room for officials who are on motorcycles trying to observe what is going on to safely ride within the same course as participants
- An inability to issue any penalty violations due to the aforementioned issues with the course and resulting crowding on it - you simply can't fault someone for drafting if they have no other option for where to go
I realize little could be done at the last minute to make this any different and I applaud the race for adapting quickly to the changing environment. However, I still feel like this race leaves so much to be desired, based on the way it is currently structured. So I came up with a few ideas that I feel could help improve the race experience and minimize many of the issues that cause others to make the same complaints:
- Make the race draft legal: Doing so would not only establish this race as one of the few unique draft legal races out there, but it would negate the need for everyone and their mother to complain about how much drafting was going on and how little control over their race they had as a result of trying to stay out of the draft zone of other riders. While you can try to stay out of trouble by avoiding packs, I find it nearly impossible to do so in the current design. With 5000+ participants, I find it highly unlikely that this race can create a method where participants are not forced into draft packs out on the course. Despite most people's best efforts, unless you are in an early wave, you will be on the course surrounded by others. And once you get to those single lane roads, there is nowhere no go, which forces participants into a situation where they are drafting, but in most cases unintentionally. Making the race draft legal provides an opportunity for people to ride however they wish. If they choose to ride solo, they can do it. If they want to jump on the train of riders coming by (which I observed many people doing anyways), then have at it. Making it draft legal gives people the option to ride within their means of comfort, whatever that may be.
- Change the bike course route: While I am not a fan of looped courses, I feel like changing the course to remain almost exclusively on Independence and Constitution Ave would result in wider roads to minimize some of the crowding, create an enhanced spectator experience, and offer a true tour of DC monuments and sights. I know they tried to get a permit for use of the GW Parkway this year, which was ultimately denied, but I still feel like this option would provide a better race experience. The current course barely covers much of what I consider "recognizable" parts of DC. You do a quick loop out and back on Independence and then head out to Clara Barton Parkway, which is a nice tree lined road, but not (in my opinion) something that would draw people from all over the world to come experience. And neither would riding on GW Parkway, although it could potentially provide wider roads. If I were traveling to DC, I'd want to be on a course that showcases the best of DC and to me, that is the notable monuments and sights. Rather, I'd propose a 3 looped course, such as the one shown, that covers the entire Mall, passing by every notable monument and Government structure, while on much wider roads. And since we've now made the race draft legal (see point above), there are fewer issues due to the likely crowding that would occur as a result of a lopped course. However, there are also a number of hills to keep the race honest and not just turn into a super flat cycling crit. 3 loops is sure to cause a number of its own issues with crowding from earlier/later waves as more people are out on the course, but having much wider roads would negate that somewhat in my opinion. With the wider roads, slower riders can remain to the right, while faster riders continue to pass on the left as they normally would.
It is one thing to travel to a location and race in that city to see its unique characteristics (and sometimes, there aren't even any unique characteristics!). DC offers a unique experience no other city anywhere can offer - to race among the historic landmarks representing those that that helped found this country and continue to influence it today. Placing a race smack in the center of it all would be the epitome of a race worthy of the title as one of the premier triathlons in the world. And adopting these principles to achieve that would, in my opinion, put it well on its way to achieving that.