Eli5 What is the drafting rule in cycling and why isn’t it enforced?


Virtually every shot of the Tour de France that I see shows cyclists riding directly behind one another. Isn’t that not allowed?

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It is perfectly allowed for cyclists in the same race to draft behind each other. That is a fundamental part of the sport. What is not allowed is for cyclists currently in a race to draft behind other vehicles on the road. So they are not allowed to draft behind the team car to catch up to the rest of the field. And they are not allowed to intentionally draft behind camera crews or other staff vehicles to get away from the rest of the field.

This is actually a big problem and cyclists try to get away with it all the time. On smaller races where they do not close the road to the general public and do not have officials all over the place a cyclist who have gained some distance on the main field might sometimes drag behind other traffic which is not allowed. And in Tour de France with so many team cars and journalists all over the place the cyclists do often sneak up behind their team car in order to get back up to the main field after getting bottles hoping they do not get spotted.

There is also a similar rule saying you can not hold on to cars either. This is also violated from time to time, even on live TV. A typical example is to hold on to the bottle from the team car for a longer time then necessary, often while the team car is accelerating. The exception to this rule is that you are allowed to hang on to the medical car while you are treated by a doctor. This is to prevent cyclists from not seeking medical attention because they do not want to lose time to the other cyclists.

Unless I am mistaken that isn’t a rule. Drafting behind another cyclist/ in a pace line is key to strategy and racing.

The rule you may be referring to is drafting behind team cars. Which isn’t “allowed” but it’s not “not allowed” as well. It’s kinda overlooks when a rider has a crash/ mechanical to let them catch up to the peloton.

In pro cycling drafting is pretty much allowed everywhere, with the exception of time trial. It’s part of the sport.

In triathlon, drafting is no allowed in the majority of amateur event though there are some draft legal events.