Racing in France: Need to Know (1)

So. I’ve started blogging again. Mainly because it’s fun. But also because I jot a lot of things down that end up dieing on my harddrive or in notebooks. Anyway the goal this year is take you through a French triathlon season with me and two of my sons. We’ll also be travelling back to the UK for a few events.

This is the first in a series of Need To Know posts in the lead up to the start of the triathlon season. If you're planning to race in France in 2017 don't get caught out by any unfamiliar rules or customs. Let me know if you need any help with bookings, translation or race entries.

Race Licenses
French event organisers readily accept Race Licenses from other federations affiliated to the ITU. To be safe, once you've entered a race drop an E Mail to the organiser to let them know that you'll be arriving with a foreign race license.

If you don't have a race license from your home federation you will have to buy a day license. However, you must also show a medical certificate outlining your aptitude to take part in triathlon competitions when you register. I can only imagine that this would need to be officially translated into French. Best just get a license from your home country.

Insurance
FFTRI is now asking race organisers to get foreign athletes to sign an insurance waiver. The waiver states that athletes licensed abroad do not receive all the insurance cover allowed FFTRI licensees. However, British Triathlon membership seems to make up the shortfall with their European-wide cover.

Referees
French referees wear black and white striped gilets. They are well-trained and serious. They scrutinise your arrival in transition, checking everything from helmet straps to handlebar end-plugs and brake performance. You'll probably also encounter far more draft-busters on the bike course than you would in the UK.

Distances
French races stick to standardised distances. Event organisers need to get special permission from the Ligue (local arm of FFTRI) to adjust race distances. In the 80s there was an obscure RTTC - Esque method of coding race distances and difficulty. Today everything is clearly stated on the FFTRI website:

  • XS Distance: 400m / 10km / 2.5km
  • S Distance: 750m / 20km / 5km*.
  • M Distance: 1500m / 40km / 10km
  • L Distance: 3000m / 80 km / 20 km**
  • XL Distance: 4000m / 120 km / 30 km
  • XXL Distance: 3800m / 180km / 42.2km

*In a throwback to the old Discovery events some race organisers still use a 500m swim for the S Distance.

**Race organisers may also refer to a 1.9km / 90 km / 21.1km event as a Half, XL or L Distance.

Start Times
Many French events start in the afternoon. Some are also still on Saturdays. Double check!

Number Belts
Following the example of the German federation, FFTRI no longer allows athletes to wear their number belts or pinned on numbers during the swim. Most athletes tuck them into their helmets; ready to be clipped.