April Fools Day is tomorrow, but this ash isn't a joke.
Due to the persistent, residual ash on the brevet courses, and the related health concerns, this season's brevet schedule has been revised.
Since last Thursday, I’ve received numerous e-mails from riders voicing their concerns about volcanic ash on the roads. Initially it was difficult finding a definitive answer regarding ash exposure, as most of the advice from local and federal agencies only addresses exposure typical to a residential cleanup scenario, not an all-day athletic event. However, after discussing the situation with several physicians, other cyclists, state health officials, RUSA officials, as well as hearing from an occupational medicine physician, I believe it's prudent to let this stuff settle down for a month.
Notwithstanding another volcanic eruption, there are two areas of concern specific to ash exposure to cyclists. First, is increased lung ventilation during prolonged vigorous exercise; in our case for periods exceeding eight hours for a 200K ride. Second, is the risk to the eyes. One of the official recommendations was for all riders to wear goggles. I can’t imagine riding 200K while wearing an N95 facemask and goggles.
While the real-time air quality readings, according to state officials, in the areas of our rides are currently not showing any immediate problematic levels, state officials confirmed that they are not taking into account the ash and dust that street-level, long-distance cyclists are exposed to by 1) stirring the ash up themselves when riding on the sides of the roads where ash accumulates with gravel, dust and other debris, 2) cars and trucks passing cyclists and kicking up clouds of ash dust that riders ride directly into, or 3) simply by winds on the course.
The good news is that we still have a big variety of new rides available. I haven't canceled any rides from the schedule. I've just moved them around and pushed them together, trying to be as accommodating as possible while minimizing conflicts with other events on the calendar.