Panajachel to Host the 18th Annual Cycle Messenger World Championships

The following cities all have something in common: Sydney, Berlin, London, Toronto, New York, Barcelona, Zurich, San Francisco, Tokyo and Panajachel.

Wait a minute—Panajachel?

The commonality is that all of them, whether world-class metropolis or funky tourist burgs, have hosted, or will host, the prestigious Cycle Messenger World Championships (CMWC). This month, the event comes to Central America for the first time, with Panajachel as its terminus and center of festivities.

The idea of a lap-around-the-lake bicycle race is not new. But back then it was too easy to win the first, second, and third place honors for the very first “Tour de Atitlán” in 1992, since only three contestants registered.

More successful and better attended races followed in ensuing years, but only now has Lake Atitlán appeared on the map of international cycling competition. But this is about much more than a race.
The event is named for the “Messengers,” a global fraternity of cycling competitors and aficionados. According to the CMWC website, Messengers are “friends coming together to embrace in a courier family reunion, and building new friendships for those brave competitors participating for the first time … there is nothing that compares, as far as pinnacle achievements for a professional bicycle Messenger, than to earn the title of World Champion.”

Who pays for all this? Mostly, suppliers of bicycle accessories, one typical sponsor is Trash Bags, a maker of all-weather bicycle totes.

Who benefits? Worthy projects in the community or country hosting the event. Among this year’s beneficiaries is Panajachel’s municipal stadium, which was severely damaged from flooding caused by Hurricane Stan in 2005. Given that the stadium took another hit in May with Tropical Storm Agatha, the CMWC event could not come at a better time.

Panajachel Mayor Gerardo Higueros is understandably jubilant. “We will provide our full support, collaboration and assistance!” he says.

The main race, to be held on September 12, has a special theme: a simulation of a real workday with deliveries and pick-ups organized in a mock city core, where routing and decision making becomes as important as speed and performance.

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