CMWC – The Cycle Messenger World Championships. If you are a regular reader of this blog you probably have heard enough about CMWC. Well thats too bad because now that it has come and gone I have plenty of photos and stories to get off my chest.
The Cycle Messenger World Championship are what I describe to people (who don’t know it) as the Courier Olympics. We travel to different countries each year, we race, compete and party. We are put into loose teams of countries, since messengers roam the world working in different cities an Australian team can hold a Scot or a Canadian who identify with Australia quite happily. If your courier company is big enough you can have a team like KurierZentrale or you could be apart of a country-less team like Slow-Squad Int. who’s main purpose is to have fun, get drunk and yell ‘slow squad’ as call out at the beginning of an Alleycat for those who don’t want to race but want to ride around.
I wanted to compete this year, in a serious attempt. Last year in Melbourne I frothed over the incredible women who were confident and seemingly unfazed by the hundreds of men racing around them. I wanted to be that kind of woman this year. The kind of woman who inspires other women to race.
There were about 500 racers in the weekend so they had to be spread over 2 days of qualifiers. I waited till the second day of qualifying to attempt it, coming off the back of a 4 day ride from Cologne to Paris, I needed a rest day. Also by going the second day I would be able to further analyse the course and also letting the organisers and volunteers have a full days practice so they could get used to their role, which turned out to be a good move. Even if everyone else had the same idea the course was big enough that there was space for everyone without hold ups at a checkpoint costing precious seconds.
It was a big, spread out, fast course – speed was going to be a factor and I don’t consider myself fast so I memorised the 12 checkpoints named after host cities, sponsors, and cities putting in a bid for 2018 CMWC – Bid Riga at the furthest western point, Vienna, after Chistole Pistol at the roundabout, Kryptonite opposite the home base after Knog, KurierZentrale at the farthest northern point and so on. I looked at the road surfaces and how fast I could take corners, imagining every kind of run between checkpoints as possible and where glass lay. I listened to more experienced racers talk about the course, ” you are going to have to circle around this section twice every time to be able to hit all the checkpoints, so you can opt to go around the velodrome the second time if you are feeling a little tired and need a rest, and hit the velodrome on the next loop”.
I watched the first day of riders and spoke to the ones that finished to piece together what my my qualifier would be like, even though our manifests would be different.
I finished qualifiers with a good time and started feeling like I had already achieved what I set out to do: to not make a dick of myself. Over the past year chasing Dan across Asia and having to find my own personal achievements away from speed, and kms, and strength, I became good at congratulating myself on perseverance and effort and intelligence instead, so I am often proud with just a gold star of attendance.
I wasn’t to know whether I qualified until later that night. I spent the afternoon swinging in a hammock underneath some pine trees, away from the winding down qualifiers and chatting to a new friend Lee, a Vancouver messenger at his first CMWC. We had agreed in trying to sleep, thinking we were playing a smart game: nap before party incase we qualify, but we found a cool shady spot under the trees away from the baking heat where the breeze would brush our skin and the sun would glitter through the pines, we had one hand on the ground swinging the hammock watching messengers playing frisbee and listening to the non stop bangers from the sound system in our post race glow, I couldn’t sleep because I was too happy.
Skip to a few hours later…
I was sitting at a table at the huge Saturday night party at a large garden house that was supposedly Napoleons hunting lodge and where the Sex Pistols had played their last show (or something like that). This years CMWC was lacking in organised parties, possibly due to the size of the event that it was hard to cater for, or that given the current state of emergency in Paris, large groups of people are 1. Banned and 2. Attract lots of attention and with the naughtiness of couriers it might have been a bit of a recipe.
Having checked my phone just under 100 times to see whether the qualifiers had been put up finally at about 10 or 11pm they appeared on the Facebook page. The sheets of results and names of all the racers were loading slowly, the people who qualified highlighted in yellow. One by one the pages popped up and my name was highlighted yellow on the very last page. I had not only qualified I had qualified in the same manifest as my hero of this year – Cécile Bloch. Snaps for Jorja.
I started becoming conscious of how late it was becoming. I think 2am rolled by and I decided it was probably time I went to bed.
The race ended up being something like 6 hours behind schedule. It was a really hot day with no cloud cover. The finalists gathered under a tree after placing their bikes down in their respective placings at the beginning of the course. Our tires were being cooked in the sun and the over-inflated tires started bursting in loud bangs, people running over to their bikes to check it wasn’t theirs and letting a little air out and if it was frantically doing a repair to get back into the group of finalists.
I had a shocking start: standing at the very front to the line ready to run to our bikes, my legs were stiff from the standing around, oh and probably the lack of any running I have done in the past 2 years. When the barrier was dropped and the race started I was at the back of the pack within 3 seconds. I tripped and slowly ran myself into the ground in the style my brother and I know as the ‘stumble run’. He would have been proud. I clambered like a turtle on my back until someone, I think it was Cécile, gave me her hand as she ran by and swung me up and got me running again. I was way behind at that stage and the race was designed so that a good start was really important.
The race was 3 hours long if you made it to the end, there was a point when the racers were thinned to a top 25. The manifest was easy, clear and fluid, everyone got the same, so at the beginning it was difficult to not watch other woman who were 2 or 3 checkpoints ahead of me. I was calm in my head, almost in a state of observation rather than concentration but as I tried to lock my bike up at Kryptonite I realised my hands and arms were weak and shaking.
A girl had lost her key in the thick gravel and had her bike stuck to the makeshift fence at the Kryptonite checkpoint, and I passed others who were fixing punctures, congratulating myself on buying those fresh Gatorskins before coming to Paris.
I finished as the 11th female, well in the upper field and amongst the girls I so admired last year. Considering my lack of racing experience, and rusty couriering skills after bike touring across asia for the last 10 months I didn’t do as terribly as I thought I would.
After the break up of my relationship and the abrupt end of a 3 year project of cycling around the world I was scattered and confused. ECMC (European Championships that were a week beforehand) and CMWC was a full month of meeting new people and partying, which to someone who was unsocialised and hurting felt daunting. I gave myself a break over CMWC and the month of July/August to just relax and enjoy the company of people, ignoring my personal duties of blogging and photographing. I did a small bit of work for ABC Story Hunters while I was there, some basic phone filming they pieced together nicely to make a story.
The ABC story briefly touches on the WBMA (Womens Bike Messenger Ass.) and the good work that we, as female bike messengers, are doing for each other and other women who want to be apart of something that typically, as a overwhelmingly masculine occupation, is not that welcoming. The WBMA is shedding some light on what it is like for other women around the world in their cities, providing information and (in the future) stories of spectacular women. It is about finding our voice when the unintended and not at all malicious sexism arrises in the community. There are more and more women working as messengers and attending these events and the WBMA can help organisers accommodate the changing face of couriering.
This years CMWC has creeped into being some of the best days of my life. Like a bucket of ice water, or sorbet between meals I feel incredibly refreshed. Right now I am heading to the beach on the east coast of central Italy, for a float in the Adriatic sea. I have a mere 3 days before I start my journey back to Australia where I have a fresh couriering job and some preparation for next years CMWC to attend to.