Valerie Vande Panne

StarTribune / Vita.MN

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Minneapolis bike messengers compete in Guatemala… September 16, 2010

Full text:

Imagine traveling through a jungle, down a mountain ravine and back up, hanging onto tree roots for balance. There’s just been a natural disaster and dozens of people and homes have been suffocated by mudslides, but you’re determined to make it to your destination: the Cycle Messenger World Championships.

That’s what happened to Minneapolis bike messengers Andy Larson, 28, Chris Graham, 24, Christopher “Skinny English” Anderson, 28, and Nick Gibbons, 32.

The men successfully made it through the jungle, bikes in tow, to Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, to compete in what is essentially the Olympics of bike messengers. The “Main Race” of the CMWC put messengers in a rough-terrain work simulation, on cobblestones and broken cement, navigating intensely among pedestrians, children, stray dogs and “tuk-tuks” (three-wheeled taxis). The winner becomes the bike-messenger world champion.

Of the four Minnesotans, Larson qualified for the Main Race, and got to compete against cycling Olympian Ivonne Kraft (men and women in CMWC compete both together and separately). Larson placed 20th overall — an impressive standing given the three flat tires he had to change consecutively in the third part of the race.

“It’s unquantifiable,” said Larson, who also owns the Minneapolis-based Trash Messenger Bags ( “Taking a risk and having a great experience with generous locals and learning about their culture. We didn’t know what we were stepping into.”

  • Valerie Vande Panne