Discover the ‘Corn Drafting’ Technique

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Discover the ‘Corn Drafting’ Technique

I LOVE the bike leg of a triathlon! It’s my favorite part of the race by far. As I’ve raced recently, I’ve tried to take note of what NOT to do and what TO do to have the best bike split possible. Notice I did not say the fastest possible. The best ride will be the fastest you should go (not can go), leaving the perfect amount of strength and energy for a great run. So here you go.

Do NOT do these things…

  • Do NOT blast up every hill and fry your legs in a big gear. On a hilly course, I constantly remind myself to spin, spin, spin up the hills. This is especially true in a longer race. But, even in a sprint, though I’m trying to go fast, I still try to spin and not smash it going up. Halfway through the run, I’m glad I did.
  • Do NOT slow way down just as you reach the top of said hill. You’re tired. I get it. But if you keep that same effort going for 30-40 yards after you hit the top, you’ll gain time on your competition, 90% of whom WILL slow down when they crest the top.
  • Do NOT hop around in T2 like a kangaroo trying to get your cycling shoes on. I did this recently at the Cornhusker State Games race because the mount line was only 20 feet from where I racked my bike. I almost always clip my shoes onto the pedals and rubber band them so they’re ready for me to push my bike to the mount line, hop on, start pedaling, get up to speed, then one at a time, get my feet into my shoes and strap them down while maintaining that speed. At the CSG, I thought I’d put them on in T2. I seriously looked like I was playing charades, trying to get my team to guess…ROO!
  • Do NOT try a flying dismount (or mount) if you’re not practiced up on that move. At the Iowa State Games Tri, I was coming in off the bike, swung my leg over the seat, and prepared to hop off and start running, pushing my bike to T2. Well, coasting in with my left foot on top of that shoe, I came unclipped, hit the ground, and completely wiped out in front of everyone landing on my left hip and wrist. I rolled twice. The bike went flying. Adrenaline kicked in. Jumped up, grabbed my bike, hit T2, and took off on the run. My left hip still hurts if I sit on it a certain way. I hadn’t done a flying dismount in three years since I’d been racing 70.3s. And, at 66, I just might be done with a move applicable to the 2024 Olympic gymnastics competition or a Circ de ’Sole performance.

    OK, DON’T do those things.

    What have I been reminded of recently that I’d strongly suggest that you DO?

DO these things…

  • DO remember that the bike is half the race in total time and distance! On any given training day, if you have a choice to either swim, bike or run, choose bike!! I started out a pretty bad swimmer. It’s slowly improved over 30 years. The bike I worked on a ton! Living in Phoenix for nine years helped with that, (the weather) but, understanding that 50% of the competition is pedaling two wheels, which, caused me to work on that the most. It paid off and it still is.
  • DO draft! Wait, what? You mean cheat? 99% of races are “no-draft” races! Correct. Don’t draft off other athletes. Keep that five bike-length gap but in my last race, I had a big truck come by me, safely, thank goodness, giving me about a 15-second draft when he came back over into my lane. We were heading north, and the wind was from the northeast. I was able to pick up another mile or two per hour for that short time. “What’s the big deal with that?” I ended up with the fifth-fastest bike split, and if I’d gone six seconds faster, I’d have had the third-best split. Seconds matter. Minutes certainly matter, and they are made of what…oh yeah, seconds. Yes, I’m competitive and look at that stuff when I do my post-race evaluation.

    I’ve also drafted off corn. Ok, now you think I’ve completely lost it! As I mentioned earlier, heading north with the wind blowing from the northeast caused me to realize that the corn on my right could break up that wind if I really hugged the right side of the road. I always try to stay right like we’re all supposed to, but I really hugged that white lane line, letting the 13 ft. cornfield block as much of the wind as possible. It’s called “situational awareness” while racing. Constantly evaluate your situation on the bike. Direction of wind? Hill climbs coming up? Total distance of bike leg determines my power effort. Always pay attention to everything that is going on around you.
  • DO concentrate on technique. I’m giving away the best tip I’ve ever received regarding cycling and that is…think about wiping your foot (like dirty shoes on a mat before entering a house) from 5-7 o’clock of your stroke and then gently lifting it on the upstroke from 7-11 o’clock. With no extra perceived effort, just doing that will add a half mile per hour to your speed. Another way to think of it is, think elliptical trainer vs. stair stepper. It’s front-to-back, not up-and-down. Ok, no more secrets for now.
  • DO blast the downhills. It’s free speed. While this is a “Do,” do not exceed your comfort level regarding bike handling. Gaining a few seconds is not worth crashing. There’s a balance here, but again, FREE speed? Thank you. I’ll take it. (Ensure your tires are good and your front wheel is tightly clamped down on the front fork.)

    There you have it. A few DO NOT’s and a few Do’s. Enjoy that bike leg, be safe…and go fast!
Lincoln Murdoch
Lincoln Murdoch
As an accomplished endurance athlete, Lincoln has been competing in running events for 40 years and racing in triathlons for 25 years. He is a 3x USAT National Champion, 14x USAT All-American and 3x ITU World Championships Top-Ten finisher. Lincoln is passionate about helping athletes meet their goals through books, online resources, coaching and motivational speaking. You can learn more at
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