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Bike messenger ‘Olympics’ spins in Queens

Metro (New York edition), July 5, 2005

Cyclists from many nations competed in Flushing yesterday to be the world champion.

By Amy Zimmer

KISSENA PARK It was a weekend full of peddling hard, sleeping little, and checking out “rides.” There was also the occasional fractured finger and broken collarbone.

For the 13th Annual Cycle Messenger World Championships, injuries are no surprise. The event — hosted here for the first time — was to benefit the New York Bicycle Messenger Foundation’s “emergency fund.”

After 750 riders from 30 countries hit Jersey City’s main race on Sunday — a simulated delivery course won by Karl Stranski, from Switzerland, in the men’s division and Sweden’s Jojo Reeder in the women’s group — the championships culminated at the velodrome yesterday for a track bike race.

“New York bike messengers were the first one to use [track] bikes and now it’s an international scene,”[actually that’s not true – see for example 1934] said Jack Blackfelt, a bike messenger for 17 years, of the bikes that can only be stopped by locking the back wheel.

“Track bikes are a very big part of the culture,” he said. “Aesthetically, they’re purer and prettier. You can decorate them better since they have fewer components to get around.” And bike messengers like them because they have fewer components to fix.

Some messengers have been racing at the velodrome for years, but it was only last year when the track’s potholes and weeds were replaced by new asphalt — thanks in part to NYC 2012’s interest in strengthening the city’s Olympic bid.

“The stuff you learn on the street applies to the track — avoiding danger at all corners and being insane,” said Bucky Turco, a former messenger who helps organize track bike events at the velodrome. “It’s a marriage between sports and lifestyle. It’s a very colorful, eclectic group.”

Until this weekend, Jason Gandy, 32, of Brooklyn, held the world record in the “track skid” event, where riders pedal fast to a line and then lock their wheel to see how far they can skid. Gandy’s 479- foot skid recorded five years ago at the championships in Philadelphia succumbed to a 509-foot skid by a rider named “Squirrel.”

Gandy hoped to defend his title, but got into a bad crash over a week ago. He skidded anyway, placing fourth. “I wasn’t supposed to race at all, but you know how it is.”


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Bike messenger emergency fund