Course measurers used to encountering many hazards in the performance of their appointed rounds - potholes, sand and other road debris, dogs, angry drivers, Central Park raccoons with an attitude - may now be faced with a new one, perhaps the potentially deadliest ever: a mosquito.
But not just any ordinary mosquito: it's the Aedes aegypti, which has gained recent notoriety for its ability to carry the rapidly spreading Zika virus, which has reached epidemic proportions in South America, particularly Brazil.
This comes just as final preparations for the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are being completed, including the course for the men and women's marathon events in the track and field competition.
Long-time measurer and IAAF mucky-muck David Katz was scheduled to do the ride, following his work at the London Games four years ago. When he was tabbed for the gig several years ago, Katz could barely contain his glee over getting a free trip to the land of the Girl From Ipanema; now, as horror stories of the virus' effects continue to escalate, he has been trying to hand off the assignment like the proverbial hot potato.
"After thinking about it, I've come to the conclusion the only fair thing to do would be to give another measurer a once in a lifetime experience of riding the Olympic course, even if said lifetime should be drastically curtailed by that experience," said Katz, who was scouring the shelves of a local drugstore in search of early season supplies of high DEET concentration insect repellent.
RRTC Chair Gene Newman would have none of Katz' seemingly altruistic shenanigans. "No, Dave wangled and weaseled his way into this trip, and I'll be damned if a few little no-see-ums are gonna scare him off."
Still, to demonstrate that he is fair as well as cruel, Newman declined to send Katz up the Amazon without a protective paddle, and assigned the measurement world's version of the Wright Brothers, the Riegel boys, Tom and Stu, to craft some sort of contraption that would insulate Katz from the bugs.
Using their knowledge of motorcycle fairings and the machinery lying idle between sporadic production runs of JOR Counters, the Riegels cooked up several prototypes, ultimately deciding on a recumbent design with extremely large "granny gears" as a concession to Katz' advancing age and increasingly balky knees. "The gears go low enough he'll be able to climb Mt. Corcovado without breaking a sweat," said Stu Riegel.
That's fortuitous, since to preclude any insect infiltration, the Plexiglas monocoque is essentially sealed shut after the rider enters and mounts the bike, reducing ventilation to the barest minimum needed to provide oxygen for the physical act of pedaling. The very real danger of hypoxia also means a GPS unit has been included so that outside observers can remotely monitor the ride for erratic weaving or stops not directly at mile or km splits.
Once Katz is finished with his Olympic efforts the bike will probably be passed on to a domestic measurer in one of the southern states, where Zika cases are beginning to grow more common. Florida certifier Toni Youngman has already expressed interest in using it for her measurements of the various Walt Disney World events, not to ward off mosquitoes but so she won't be forced to hear the constant drone of "It's A Small World" that plays in the parks while they are closed to the public.