Saturday, March 28, 2015

Corazón a Través del Alta de California

If you go to the X-Features in Strava, you'll find the beta version of Time-Warp - I'm not sure it's up anymore.  Time-Warp allows you to view KOMs in specific timeframes - sort of the opposite of the "2015 KOMs" they introduced this year - like, who had the KOM up Old La Honda in 2010?  A hidden feature in Time-Warp is the ability to follow historic figures, so I started following Junipero Serra.  There's a modified Fly-By feature, too, which lets you ignore the year and just compare the same day and time; it's a little buggy because there was no such thing as Daylight Savings Time when Junipero was riding, but it was interesting to look at his rides compared to the current day Heart Across America.

Serra was a Franciscan friar from Spain in the late 1700s and a heck of a bike rider, according to Strava Time-Warp.  Apparently, he did his winter training in Baja, but lived in Carmel - near Monterey, CA.  Strava did not have clubs at the time, nor did Google have groups.  So Serra founded Missions: Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá in 1769 then on further north until he bumped into some Russian clubs.  Serra couldn't take any KOMs from the Russians, who dominated the gloomy north coast and OWNED Russian Hill in San Francisco. Or should I say "Rey de la montaña"?  Hmm, maybe "Король горы" further north.

As you know, Serra used the Missions to convert the local cyclists to Christianity.  And they needed it - they all seemed to be obsessed with - nay, WORSHIPPED - Mount Diablo.  Judging from my own experience dodging cyclists on that hill, I'd say the devil has won.  Serra recruited local cyclists.  I'm guessing they didn't have "no-drop" rides because the literature is full of stories of "punishing" rides and a lot of the locals actually died.  Worse than Eddy Merckx - the cannibal.  I haven't found any evidence that Serra actually ate other club riders, FYI.

From Serra's Instagram account
Serra rode an old Orbea with Compagnolo components.  Likely the Roman components were the spoils from some previous border transgression. Today, we'd probably call it a cross bike.  He had several bikes, of course - doesn't everybody?  He also had a time trial bike from the defunct Euskady tribe in the Basque region.  It had make-shift aero bars and he had a BMX-style aero helmet from Specialized.  Rumor has it that Greg LeMond stole the idea from his 4th grade history class.

Most of the activities on Serra's Strava page were point-to-point rides.  He wasn't one for out-and-backs or loops.  His Missions were spaced roughly 30 miles apart because he didn't have bottle cages on his bike and Camelbaks hadn't been invented yet.  He'd get a bit dehydrated, but life was tough back then.  30 miles would take all day on a horse or three days on foot, according to local legend.  With the Orbea and 35mm tires, his PR between Missions was just under three hours - it was all hard-pack gravel back then and a few streams to cross.  He replaced a lot of tubes; sidewall cuts, pinch flats, and some flats that looked like pinch flats but were actually rattlesnake bites.  His carbon-soled sandals were okay (charcoal), but the leather straps didn't fare well in the water.  The wool kit (habit or robe) was a special multi-layer fabric that wicked sweat from his body and had the three-color stripes of the Spanish national champion on the collar.  Such a Fred.

The Heart Across America ride started last Sunday in Palo Alto, a few blocks from current-day El Camino Real.  In this part of the state, current-day El Camino is very close to Serra's El Camino Real (aka, the Mission Trail, King's Highway or the Royal Road).  Serra would ride from Mission to Mission; Maloney and crew headed west that afternoon, hotel to hotel.  They rode down the coast and ended up in Davenport, just north of Santa Cruz.  Serra would have headed east from Mission Santa Clara de Asis (Santa Clara) to Mission San Jose (Fremont), then southwest to Mission Santa Cruz.  On Day 2, Serra went inland to Mission San Juan Bautista and then meeting Maloney, who hugged the coastline, finishing in Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel).
"We're on a mission from God" - Elwood Blues

At that point, the two paths separated with Serra heading inland for smoother roads while Maloney hugged the cliffs and beaches of the coast, benefiting from the nice pavement on Highway 1 - and accelerating several days ahead of Serra.  Their paths met again in San Luis Obispo (Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa).  They skipped Mission La Purísima Concepción and met again at Mission Santa Inés (Solvang), and Mission Santa Barbara (guess where) and Mission San Buenaventura (Ventura) - two days more advantage to Maloney.

The Los Angeles area Missions are slightly inland from the Heart Across America route.  The two are fairly close at Dana Point (Mission San Juan Capistrano) and then aligned again in Oceanside (Mission San Luis Rey de Francia).  From there, it's Serra on his TT bike against Maloney down into San Diego (Mission San Diego de Alcalá).  With rest days and media engagements, Maloney and the Heart Across America team take 12 days.  A shiny new van full of spare parts, food and their clothes followed along, taking no extra time.  Serra never appeared to go back-to-back all the way from Santa Clara to San Diego, according to his Strava activities.  It seems feasible that he could have done it in nine days, assuming he could recover properly.  If you stop at each Mission, Serra's Mission Trail takes 22 days which would be necessary with his many business engagements.  But that's not a completely fair comparison because Serra's SAG wagon was literally a wagon - a horse-drawn wagon accompanied by others on foot.  If Serra had Maloney's SAG wagon (and pavement), he could have made it a close race.  We'd need Bill and Ted's phone booth to really know for sure.

In his day, Serra had a ton of KOMs.  Most were flat segments - the locals could take him on the climbs.  He continued to set PRs into his forties, but had crippling leg problems.  I suspect he didn't have his seat adjusted properly (purely conjecture).  Certainly, his cadence was dramatically lower than Maloney's which would have helped his knees.

What I found most interesting was the low number of kudos.  I think the local cyclists had higher standards for kudos.  Spanish cyclists back in Spain would likely have missed many of Serra's activities because of the time zone - they didn't want to scroll down the parchment far enough to see his rides.  Again, purely conjecture.

If anyone reading this has Time-Warp and follows Serra, leave a comment if you noticed something else.

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