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Austin bike courier race brings competitors from all over North America

Farzad Mashhood

Bike messenger Luke Kalloch quickly clopped to his bike Sunday, about to start a busy afternoon.

He studied his list of pickups and drop-offs, deciding how to brave slick roads strewn with tree branches snapped off by the morning's rainstorm.

In the end, Kalloch would race about 50 miles in the North American Cycle Courier Championships, which included making stops and getting signatures for pickups and drop-offs, much like a real day's work. Qualifying heats were held Saturday; the finals were Sunday.

"It's pretty much a big puzzle to be solved," Kalloch said. "And I like puzzles, and I like riding my bike. So it's a good combination for me."

It was the championship's first visit to Austin, but for 16 years the race has brought together some of the continent's best bike messengers and delivery people. About 50 men and women on fixed-gear and road bikes came together at Driveway Austin Motorsports Academy and Retreat, a racetrack in East Austin.

The annual race, which at times seemed more like a laid-back ride rather than a faceoff of the country's fastest bike messengers, is also a de facto convention for bicycle couriers, said John Trujillo , one of the event's organizers.

"It's the only time the nation's messengers come together," he said.

For Kalloch, it was a good way to connect with other couriers outside of Austin's small community.

Most of the cyclists know each other, given their profession's small numbers, he said.

"Everyone has that in common. We ride bikes for work, and we do it outside of work."

Trujillo, also a messenger in Austin, said the race is meant to simulate work conditions.

Competitors are given a list of stops and have to determine the best route for completing them on a deadline.

Sunday's fastest man and woman — Mason O'Neal of Austin in 2 hours, 2 minutes and 52 seconds and Christina Peck of Chicago in 2:12:47 — each won a $2,500 bike frame and other bike gear. An estimated 88 racers competed over the weekend.

Organizers originally planned a course in downtown but didn't have enough money to pay for public safety staffers, permits and other fees, Trujillo said.

Austin messengers plan to bid for the 2014 world championships, using a downtown route. Trujillo said he hopes this weekend's event will be good preparation for an international race with hundreds of riders.

fmashhood@statesman.com;445-3972