Photos: The anti-Tour de France, where bike messengers get the glory

Bike messengers are the coal miners of the cycling world. They take a beating on a daily basis while braving considerable danger, and let’s be honest, the money isn’t great.

There is, however, one respite. For the past 20 years, the best bike messengers on the planet have gotten to show off their grit and determination at the Cycle Messenger World Championships. Think of it as the anti-Tour de France. No ridiculous spandex outfits covered with ads. No blood doping or annoying pointy helmets. Just 400 or more riders from around the globe showing off their bad-ass skills in hopes of being crowned the fastest, smartest messenger on the planet.

This year’s race took place in Lausanne, Switzerland, on the steep hills of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, where organizers created a course that mimicked a hectic day in a city. Riders competed in a variety events, including sprints, tricks and uphill climbs, all to qualify for a chance to participate in the main event—a grueling four-hour race in 90-degree heat against the fastest 80 messengers.

Our Photographer: Kevin Sparrow

Milwaukee-based photographer, designer and cyclist Kevin Sparrow finished 10th in the qualifiers, but gave up his shot at the title to shoot photos for us.

In this year’s championship-deciding race, messengers had one hour to pick up and drop off packages at checkpoints along the course. Austin Horse of New York City took first place for the men, and Joséphine Reitzel of Lausanne won the women’s division. Then everyone got trashed.

More CMWC Photos!

Take a look at the Vocativ Tumblr to see more of Kevin's competition photos, as well as the pre-race ride from Paris to Lausanne.

CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 01
A rider races in his qualifying heat. Switzerland, as you can see, is lovely.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 02
The competitors get ready for their official group photo. In this sport, drinking is required. Or at least it should be.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 03
Racers put on their game faces. Enter mustache guy.
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Riders sprint to their bikes at the start of the main race. Notice, not a fat person in sight.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 05
Men and women race together. All is equal in the messenger world. So long as you have chops.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 06
Hundreds of spectators line the streets as they compete in the uphill time trial.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 07
The Cycling Messenger World Championship was broadcasted on a Swiss radio station and online.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 08
The grueling stairs section on the back part of the race course.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 09
The riders must change directions several times on the course, a simulation of actual bike messenger work.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 10
New Yorker Austin Horse took first place in the men's division. Must be the sunglasses.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 11
New York City messenger Kym Perfetto's face shows just how painful the uphill sprint in Lausanne feels.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 12
Fred Marshall of Seattle cools off with a drink in the middle of the race.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 13
Fans cheer as riders pedal the last few meters during the final stretch of the climb.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 14
Safa Wagner of Mexico City studies his deliveries on a long, straight section of the course.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 15
This spectator's splash of water hit the spot in the hot weather.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 16
Local food vendors peddle their offerings to fans and competitors, including one man in very, very short shorts.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 17
Fuego, who's from Paris, maneuvers his bike loaded with a ridiculous amount of cargo during the main race.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 18
This is what it's all about: the handmade, official CMWC 2013 trophies.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 19
Actually, maybe this is what it's all about: A rider jumps his bike into the lake in celebration of the competition's end.
CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 20
The riders are treated to a complimentary fondue dinner provided by the CMWC crew and Le Gruyere.

Le Gruyere

Le Gruyere was an awesome supporter of this year's CMWC events. Check out all of the fondue goodness that the Swiss company has to offer here.

CMWC 2013 Kevin Sparrow 21
A very special delivery seals the finish to the bike messenger championships.


Respond Now
  • Love the article. Great fun and wonderful images. Keep up the good work!

  • Hello Guys, I’m from Lausanne and it was a fantastic experience to see you all compet in the nicest spot of my city. I’m not a sportive person and always in admiration when a Velocity (the Lausanne messangers) guy or girl pass me fast when I’m climbing the Petit-chêne or Mercerie road. It will be also a incredible memory seeing that in eh middle of the competition you were all capable in going faster than our Public transportation in the road that bring you to the castel.

    Hope to see you again and that you will keep good remembers of this edition.

    Luce a swiss fan

  • I pooped my pants!

  • “Notice, not a fat person in sight.”
    Wtf? What’s up with the fatshaming? Why the fuck is the absence of “fat people” a good thing?
    That sentence just spoiled the whole article for me…

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Are u a fat person or something? Jeez take a chill pill

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