Updated: 16/11/19

The European Cycle Messenger Championships (ECMC) is an annual competition for European bicycle messengers. This year, our Co-Founder, Seb Robert, immersed himself in the largest cycle messenger event in Europe and reported all the action. [For the 2015 World’s Championships, check out Seb’s experience at the CMWC in April]. 


Arrival of the fittest

I arrived into Milan at around the same time that the couriers were arriving from the pre-ride from Basil. Pre-rides commonly create international friendships between couriers. They cement the strong sense of community these guys have. Fueled by shared feelings of success and adventure, and experiencing some ridiculously tough climbs together, it’s pretty easy to understand why these guys build such a strong bond. I heard some of the guys describing a 10k climb on fixed gear bikes. It made me sincerely wish I was able to take part. Sadly, I’m not sure I could even walk a 10k climb!

I spent a little time exploring the city before making my way over to the Welcome Party. I wandered up and down the Via Bergognone searching for any sign of cycle messengers (generally not hard to spot). After a lot of aimless walking and general confusion I stopped to make the most of a free wifi connection to try and find out where I needed to be. Still no joy. I was about to give up and head back to our digs only to turn around and see the first group of riders cruising in from Basil with ‘ALLEZ!’ plastered across their tops. The first couriers had come as a team and clearly meant business.




Like the arrival of a flock, of spandexed, two-wheeled birds, the group started gathering and eventually numbered about 50. Some of them being familiar faces from our team at Gophr. Some who hadn’t braved the ride from Basil came crawling out of a van that had been on a 22-hour drive from London.

A few minutes later and the street was littered with bikes, bike parts and a mountainous pile of messenger bags. It took a few minutes to get all the necessary elements organised. Then the size 15 spanner was passed around to get everyone’s rides together.

We made our way into the party and stepped into the space at Ex-Spazio Ansaldo; a large concrete room built to entertain. Couriers from all over the world exchanged greetings. A lot of them were old friends ‘from when they worked in [major metropolitan city]’, or from the last international meet up they both attended.

The night ended with all the guests being gently ousted from the venue at silly-o’clock (I honestly don’t remember when).



Registration day

The next morning was registration at Ex-Spazio Ansaldo; the same venue. Some were punctual, but due to hangovers, most arrived around 10-30 minutes late.

The first race took part late in the evening; the out-of-towner’s Alley Cat. It was an event that was eagerly anticipated by the band of London couriers that I was spending my time with. This is where the competition also began for me, jumping on the bike I’d been kindly lent by a courier friend of mine.

It was time for me to test myself against a group of couriers travelling across the city – which is akin to joining a training match of professional footballers and trying not to fuck up. It took about 30 seconds before I dropped unceremoniously to the back of the pack. With our lack of familiarity with Milan and some confusion around several junctions, I managed to arrive at the Vigorelli velodrome somehow still with the pack (they were probably taking it easy). There was no hiding the sweaty mess I was in compared to a group of completely composed and still fresh couriers.



We felt it necessary to refuel so we made a trip to the local supermarket. This in itself was an amusing venture. The isles of the Italian supermarket were filled with couriers, all looking for one thing: beer.

The build up to the race had begun. Probably half the couriers present were taking part. The Milan traffic must have been fairly dumbfounded to see over a hundred people with bikes above their heads, searching for some open tarmac to lay their bikes on. There was a sea of bikes plastered across the floor.

Several false starts later the race was on.

On the subject of open tarmac, it can be a bit of a luxury in Milan. Cobblestones, trams, tram lines, road traffic, and parked cars combine to create some truly horrible cycling streets. One of the Londoner’s got his bike wheel caught in a tram line during the race and suffered some pretty big cuts and bruises.

The events concluded later that evening with the awesome Oakley party back inside the Vigorelli velodrome. We saw plenty of bad dance moves (most of them mine) fueled by good spirits! The day was followed by qualification for the main race. Some went to bed early(ish), most did not.




Qualification day

The races started late (again) on the hottest day of the weekend so the first entrants had to compete through the midday sun. As a result, I spent most of my time trackside, watching the race and joining the chants of ‘ALLEZ, ALLEZ!’. I exchanged a brief greeting with Jordan, who was lapping around the track furiously. He finished in 12th place at the CMWC in Melbourne and was London’s best hope at the ECMC. After he finished he returned meekly to the shade to join the couriers who had spent the previous night partying till the early hours of the morning.



Later that night was the second Alley Cat. It was also open to the home couriers, the ones who knew their way around the cobbled-and-tram-lined-puncture-inducing streets. With Alley Cats, you don’t get to see a whole lot. So, lots gave it a miss and headed straight for the forum to find out who the 2016 Championship hosts would be. Out of Vienna, Copenhagen, and Prague, Copenhagen won. The fine purveyors of beer and furniture will now host cycle couriers. I hope I’m there to witness it.


Race day

To be honest, I’m not really sure what time the main race started on Sunday. I don’t think many others did either as there were a fraction of couriers hanging around. Emphasis on the word ‘hanging’.

The main race is a 3-hour slog and in the hot weather, it looked like hard work. A few hours in and the atmosphere had transformed. The couriers who weren’t racing that day gave all the support they had to those out on the track.

The racers began to trickle into the finish, and much like runners at a marathon, were cheered on heartily. Austin Horse (who seems to win pretty much everything) was named winner overall later that night. With form like that it’s hard not to back him. He won this year’s CMWC’s too.



Shortly after the race there it was a short walk to the skid and sprint competition where everyone was having a lot of fun. The skid competition was insanity; riders chucking all their weight behind the handlebars and some managing distances of about 40 metres! 

At this point, everyone was just going for it, more madness than racing. Sadly I had to cut it short but nonetheless made my way back to London with a smile on my face.


For anyone interested in checking out the atmosphere of these events, the next one is the W.I.S.E (Welsh, Irish, Scottish, English) bicycle messenger championships in Glasgow. August 28-31st 2015. Check out the details here.