Becoming a Race Official


Posted by Coach Jay Weber

When the top level of ITU racing came to my town of San Diego in 2012, and as a way to get myself more involved in the sport of triathlon, I decided to become an official. It provided me a way to give back to the sport, learn more about the sport, and put people at ease.

Regardless of the skill level, nerves are a universal in the sport. The elites may go fast, but they still get nervous. I hope to be a face of calm to help their day.

There are three main race series in the world of triathlon – ITU, WTC (Ironman), and USAT. Each has their unique rules and stipulations, and all three are different in the way they are run.

ITU race rules in the US are primarily applied to elite racers. The simple version is that it is draft legal racing on the bike, so it is much like a criterium bike race. As such, there are many more rules regarding what is allowed in the bike phase for safety purposes. With ITU racing, you will see many more officials on the course because there are many more aspects of the race to monitor.

WTC and USAT races are very similar in their general rules, but are very different in how the penalties are applied. For USAT triathlon, you don't "serve" the penalty, but rather it is enforced after the race has ended in the form of an additive time penalty. For WTC races, you are shown a card with your infraction, signaling that you must head to the next penalty tent to serve your time penalty.


Drafting is by the far the most common infraction, but there are several other common rules which are often overlooked by athletes. Overtaking penalties occur when you are passed and then attempt to repass the individual without leaving the draft zone. You'll need to finish the bike segment with everything that you started with, unless you have disposed of material in the official stations (or consumed it), otherwise you risk an Abandonment of Equipment penalty. You may receive help from a race official or race volunteer only, or you will have broken the rule prohibiting Outside Assistance. These rules are intended to ensure fairness on the course. As with any race, it is your responsibility to know the rules!

If you enjoy interacting with athletes, working with the rules, and seek to give back to this amazing sport, consider becoming an official!

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