bike race delivers
By SARAH HOOD
The Globe and Mail, June 14, 2008
You would think the last thing a bike courier would want to do on
holiday is deliver things.
But this weekend, about 600 messengers from about 20 countries will
converge on Hanlan's Point on the Toronto Islands to do precisely that
as the 16th annual Cycle Messenger World Championships replicates their
daily working conditions, complete with waybills, bike locks,
receptionists and rush deliveries.
"It's been touted by some as the most complicated
bike race in the
world, and as such it's an odd spectacle, because what you're
is people picking up and dropping off packages," says Toronto courier
Mark Hayward, who is co-ordinating Toronto's two-day main race.
Toronto is the first city to host the race a second time - a testament
to the respect accorded its couriers by the international messenger
Today, competitors will race in staggered groups to make 32 pickups and
32 drop-offs at 13 checkpoints. Speedy racers will be able to complete
the list in less than an hour.
"We've got some funny checkpoints; they have to run onto the nude
beach. And most checkpoints are in the main area with the vending and
Fifteen to 20 per cent of the field, or about 100 racers, will advance
to the finals tomorrow, when they will compete for bragging rights and
cycling prizes worth anywhere from $5 to $1,500.
The unique and complex nature of the event reflects the character of
the profession. "You get people who can't work in Tim Hortons for 10
minutes who do this job for 50 hours a week, and they risk their lives,
and they thrive. It's also a wonderfully irreverent community with an
absolutely bizarre machismo: A bunch of guys who are incredibly proud
about riding around on bikes with their pants rolled up," Mr. Hayward
Following established tradition, previous race organizers are arriving
to help out. First in town was Copenhagen's Martin Larsen, who has
attended, competed in or helped organized seven Cycle Messenger World
Championships. "I missed Edmonton because I had a child. I missed
Budapest because my leg was in four pieces. I try not to keep count of
them," he says.
Although his company team, De Gronne Bude, came first in 1995, the last
year the race was held in Toronto, Mr. Larsen says he isn't planning to
compete. "I'll be racing the cargo race. That's the only place I'll be
active on that side of the counter. Other than that I'll be the
obnoxious guy running around shouting, 'Clear the course' and stuff
Mr. Larsen says attending his first messenger competition "changed my
idea of what I was doing. I thought I was just riding my bike, and then
I went to Zurich in '99. That was the first time I met the wonderful
brotherhood of the global messengers."
The race was created in Berlin in 1993, and Toronto became the first
North American host in 1995.
"The Tour de France has survived for over 100 years, and that's very
impressive," Mr. Larsen says. "But if my gut feeling about this race is
right, then it will survive over 300 years."
Details: Opening events and registration were last night; main
qualifying race today, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; main race final tomorrow, 1
p.m. to 6 p.m.; closing events, Monday.