Monday, February 18, 2008

Older skool

While surfing the interweb the other day I came across an intresting article on
This is a race report from Dublin's very first alleycat on September 19th 1997.
I believe it was written by Jeff, long-time messenger who pretty much introduced Dublin to the fact that there was something called the messenger community and that we were in fact part of it.

Really interesting article and I guess it kinda shows that some things don't really change. Except the worrying trend of a ton of people turning up to alleycats and then only having 6 or 7 racers. I know I've been guilty of this myself but after Saturdays race, kudos to Eoghan for a great race, I'm vowing to take part in every race from now on.

It's quite frustrating as an organiser to put the effort in to organising a fun event for people and then have so many people dismiss it. I wasn't in it to win it on Saturday by any means, but I had great fun riding around the city at my own pace, and I know I'd be kicking myself if I hadn't done it. So please show your support in future by coming out and riding, not just standing around drinking beers, I promise you won't regret it.

Anyway, I was getting off topic there, here's the article:

"There isn't a scene here: messengers don't drink together in Dublin" was the first thing that Ted Tierney said to me when we met on the road a week ago. Twenty riders from five companies rode. There were almost as many at the pub to size the thing up.

Cyclone riders were a big majority, but that has almost as much to do with being such a big majority on the road everyday. Cyclone run about three times the number of bikes per day any other co. here runs.

The other two medium-size companies, Securispeed and Quickstream, had all of their big guns out, and riders from Mayday, Superior, and Pigeon also rode.

The start was LeMans style, with racers opening an envelope with instructions and then running for their bikes. The Bar Bruxelles in Grafton St (Dublin's major pedestrianised shopping precinct) was the rather bold setting-off point. The envelope contained these words:

At any point during this race you must write down the James Joyce quotation that appears in neon on the south wall of Trinity College (Nassau St.) HERE:

Your first checkpoint is The Beggars Bush, Haddington Rd. D8 And have a glass on us.

Copying the quotation was intended to break up the pack a little as racers took different times to nip around there, like the tube-ticket trick.

At The Beggars Bush were 19 half-pints of Guinness, a "stout" beer very popular among couriers here. There was also a glass of lemonade for the courier who responded "no" to the question "do you drink beer?" before the race. Every entrant was asked this question. After the Guinness, served up lovingly by Elaine and Jennifer, the racers were given packages addressed up to Connolly Station Fastrack (Red Star equivalent here).

Two racers, one the hot favourite to win, took these packages without looking at them and sped back to the start. Keith Lawless, aforementioned fast-man, was livid. He had no idea that the packages were addressed up, that they contained prizes, that checkpoints may involve the drinking of alcohol, that we would allow a controller to race, that few alleycats are actually as simple as the one in Barcelona had been. I wonder if a London messenger is well enough known throughout the messenger community for his name to be made into a verb. To String. I spoke to Keith for a while after the race, trying to take on his criticisms. Trying to get his input so that he would ride the next race with more confidence. "A load of bollocks" was pretty much the extent of his opinion and he has said he won't ride another. I hope he can be convinced, but that's really for future organisers to sort out. 18 riders had no problem figuring out what they were meant to do.

Checkpoint two saw the pack still together-ish fly up the ramp onto the beginning of the concourse where the Fastrack Counter is. Declan, former controller par excellence, led his hyper-efficient team in distributing packages in pecise order with the instructions to proceed to the Red Bull Jeep at the Central Bank Of Ireland. Most cats snuck up through Temple Bar's crowded narrow cobbled streets, to be rewarded with a can of every messenger's favourite fizzy pop and a t-shirt that they had to don before proceeding.

Now, the organisers were not in complete agreement about the t-shirt stunt, but it did make for a very good obstacle. It required everyone to take off their bag, and a few do get off of their bikes. It worked a bit like having to lock up your bike at the CMWC events. Putting on the shirts at the checkpoint was a compromise originally with the big sponsor, who wanted the racers to put them on before the start. Red Bull came in at very short notice with a good deal of money, prizes, and support. It is also, like Timbuk2, a product that messengers use and enjoy. How many cc's smoke Dunhills? But if they want to put on an event for us, hey...

Checkpoint four took the now all-over-the-place bunch back across The Liffey to Cycleways Bike Shop. CC veterans Paul and Max dispensed the Maxim and High 5 bars in envelopes directing the race back to Pinhead's Pizza on the South Circular Rd.

At Pinheads the racers still in it added a £5 voucher to their swag and were sent back to Bar Bruxelles by cc and cover-controller Kim, as well as Pinheads extremely affable and supportive manager Killian.

Back at the pub it was a clean sweep for the Cyclone boys, with Cormac Lacy narrowly pipping Northside's John Conlon to the line. Southside's Jonathon Foley was not far behind. Then things once again went pear-shaped. Nobody had transcribed the quotation. The first three were sent out to get it, but in the end nobody else had it either. Confusion at the line somewhat blurred later results, and there was talk about throwing the result out altogether. After some consultation with all of the riders, it was agreed that there was indeed a clear winner, runner-up and third place finisher. In their turn, the three concede that the results were imperfect and agreed to put all of the money behind the bar!!! Kings, or what? Prizes had been collected by many in the cash primes at checkpoints as well as the checkpoint prizes of Timbuk2 strap wallets, T-shirts, puncture-repair kits, etc., so nobody lost on their £2 investment. There was a voucher for an extremely prestigious Timbuk2 ltd. edition Alleycat winner bag for CormacLacy as well.

The event went off more smoothly than most races I have witnessed or raced. The riders had a ball and many expressed interest in another race as soon as possible. Some company managers expressed the same, and Red Bull are practically demanding that we throw one monthly. Dublin has indeed lost it's virginity in the alley, and is now insatiable.

So what now?

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