Milwaukee takes Bronze in Olympics of Transportation Cycling


The start of the finals.

Milwaukee's own Kevin Sparrow racing to third place in the finals on Sunday.

Congratulations to Kevin Sparrow, who rides for Breakaway Bicycle Couriers in Milwaukee, for winning third place in the 2012 Cycle Messenger World Championships finals last Sunday. Kevin beat out more than 250 bicycle couriers from around the world who traveled to Chicago to compete in the annual race. Riders came from as far away as Australia and Japan to compete in what amounts to the Olympics of transportation bicycling.

The race began with a Le Mans style start.

In addition to Kevin, Wisconsin was well represented with 12 riders who made the cut in Saturday’s preliminary race, and advanced to the elite field of 100 male and female riders for Sunday’s finals. The racing was held in a large parking lot on the Soldier Field campus along Chicago’s lakefront.  The organizers used miles of yellow caution tape and barricades to turn the parking lot into a maze of one-way streets with various check points scattered throughout. The race began with a Le Mans style start in which the riders had to run to their bikes, which were all laying scattered in the parking lot. During the two hour race, riders had to complete manifests with various “deliveries” that required stops, stamps, and signatures. There was a dispatch station and even a “driver” to simulate situations where bike messengers are used to meet auto couriers, pick up a package and make the final delivery. It was interesting to watch racers screaming “DRIVER!” as they raced around the course looking for the designated guy on the bike so they could make the pick-up and cross that off their manifest.  Sometimes, even when found, the driverwouldn’t stop for the racer saying “can’t find a place to park.”

The rider in the white on the left was the "driver" for the race. Eric Von Munz of Breakaway (right) clearly already made his car pickup.

Riders were not required to use a cargo bike.

With Sunday’s temperatures in the 80s, and the closed course held on an asphalt parking lot virtually devoid of shade, the two hour race was a genuine test of messenger skills and fitness. The racing was fast and although there were different categories, non-messengers, women, men, geared bikes, fixies, cargo bikes and even pedicabs competed together. Despite the speed, numerous hairpin turns and blind intersections, there were only a few crashes and nobody was seriously hurt. After the main courier race finals, the racers took part in some more light-hearted events that test courier skills, such as a specific cargo bike race, fixed-gear skids, sprints, girl-friend sprints and track stands. In addition to the preliminary and final races held over the weekend, riders were able to participate in a week’s worth of activitiesdesigned to show of the Windy City.  With alleycats, beach rides, concerts and even a messenger prom, I am amazed the racers had any every left to compete. I guess by now I should know to never doubt a professional courier.

Hans 'Harry' Bullitt Fogh (from Harry vs Larry in Copenhagen, Denmark) pushed his Bullitt John Player Special to fourth overall in the prelims!

For more photos of the final race and the post race shenanigans, be sure to check out our 2012 Cycle Messenger World Championship set on Flickr here.  Craig Etheridge of Seattle, WA and Kosuke ‘TORIZO’ Shimosaka of Tokyo, Japan edged out Kevin for first and second men’s. Josephine Reitzel of Lausanne, Switzerland was the top female finisher. Congratulations to all the Wisconsin riders who represented our state so well at the Worlds. Congrats to Shaggy of Shag Bags for selling both backpacks! I hope you all get plenty of good runs over the next year because you will need a bit more scratch to travel to the 2013 race in Lausanne, Switzerland!

A Waterford leads out the girlfriend sprints.

While helmets were required for the sprints, apparently clothing was optional.

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

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