I: Strawberry

The story of the fastest, longest, dumbest bike race.

primidi, the 11th of Prairial, Year CCXXXI
Three perfectly ripe strawberries. Photo by Jacek Dylag / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is primidi, the 11th of Prairial, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate la fraise, a fruit that holds its seed on the outside.

The strawberry was a bit of recent national pride in France. While wild strawberries grew the world over and had been a celebrated dessert for kings for centuries, the first truly cultivated garden strawberry was sown in Brittany just 20 years before the revolution. It was a hybrid of a North American wild variety (from Virginia) and a South American wild variety (from Chile) selected for size, color, and sweetness. This new domesticated species, which is the basis of all cultivated strawberry plants today, was named for its taste being as sweet and tart as a pineapple, or anana in French. Thus, its scientific name is Fragaria ananassa

Sometimes a race is not a race, but an experiment, and winning isn't winning, but finishing. Such was the case with the one and only "anything goes" four-man team version of the Race Across America, an annual bicycling ultramarathon that stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. The loser, by time amongst the finishers, was Team Strawberry, but it was the technology they carried with them that had the greatest impact on the sport of cycling for decades to come.