Forget the Olympics: Chicago hosts world championships of bike messenger racing

August 8, 2012

Summer Games, psht. This past weekend Chicago played host to the 2012 Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC).

The week-long gathering featured a heavy dose of parties — including “Messenger Prom” — a skid competition and an open forum discussion about labor issues. But the main event was the work simulation race, designed to mimic a bike messenger’s day-to-day experience on the street. Racers are given manifests — lists of pick-up and drop-off points — and have to navigate their way around a closed course to make as many deliveries as possible in the time allowed.

According to race organizers, 366 registered competitors came to Chicago from 14 countries, including Japan, Australia, France and Germany. The preliminary rounds on Saturday weeded out the slower competitors. One-hundred bike racers — 89 men and 11 women — made the cut for the finals. 

I went to the Soldier Field Sunday to watch my friends and the out-of-towners compete. Craig Etheridge of Seattle and Josephine Reitzel of Lausanne, Switzerland took the top prizes (there was a heavy contingent from Lausanne, which will hold the championships in 2013); Chicago's top finisher was 4 Star Courier Collective's Mike Morell, who came in 17th. 

Check out the video above, featuring helmet-cam footage shot during the race by the messenger community’s most beloved — and ballsy — documentarian, Lucas Brunelle. The full results of the competition are posted here, and a map of the course is here