Rollapaluza X - Friday 25th January
17.12.07 by Buffalo Bill
The first ever London messenger roller race was held at the Horseshoe pub, in November 2000. Greg Tipper had been inspired by seeing the Goldsprints at CMWC 1999, and decided that he wanted to bring it to the London messenger masses.
The Zurich roller races were well-established and featured purpose built rigs hooked up to visual display screens that projected the progress of the race above the heads of the crowd, automatic rankings update, organised betting and were sponsored by local brewery, who produced a special beer for the event, called Goldsprint.
Tipper had participated in the South London Roller Race league, on the type of Freddie Grubb manufactured set-up that would have been used by Eddie Wingrave, back in the 50s, when he toured dance-halls with Harry Mill’s Celebration Revue. Roller sets connected by worm gear to large hands on a clock face marked out in increments of a metre. The South London Roller Race League did not resemble a spectacle in the slightest. It took place in sports halls and club-rooms on week-nights, attended by a handful of cyclists in track-suits, nursing cups of tea, under neon lights.
The Goldsprints were a totally different kettle of fish. Raucous, unruly and dramatic, they were in the continental tradition of six-day racing, wreathed in smoke, soaked in beer and conducted at ear-splitting volumes. Greg enlisted my help, and roped in Big Al from Creative and arranged to borrow the Bec Cycling Club rollers, which were training rollers with a fork-stand, but connected to the magic clock.
Greg approached the Horseshoe because the place served decent beer, and had an upstairs room. Despite having doubts about the nature of the event, the landlord agreed to host.
Held on a Friday, the event drew a large field of messengers, and a larger crowd of spectators. Porno Steve had flown in specially from Zurich to participate, and add some international lustre, bringing with him, as he did, a pair of white leather cycling shoes equipped with quill cleats. After qualifying rounds and numerous knock-outs, the final came down to Porno against Elliott, the local messenger star, virtually unbeatable in alleycats. We knew it would be a tight race, and me and Greg feared that the out-of-towner would triumph. Which was not the result we wanted. The crowd went absolutely beserk, screaming at Elliott, and pandemonium ensued upon his victory.
For those of you that were there, it was rather like Scarlett beating the big fish’n‘chipper at last weekend’s Rollapaluza IX.
Afterwards Greg claimed that he had had a hand, or should I say foot, in Elliott’s win. Specifically, that he had used it on Steve’s roller. I know that he didn’t like Steve (too cocky! talk about the pot calling the kettle!), but I doubt that he really did sabotage the big guy.
The event was an overwhelming success, and the landlord told us that we were welcome back anytime. No doubt the quantities of beer that were passed over the bar that night had a lot to do with his enthusiasm.
The next roller race was in the winter of 2002, once again Tipper was pulling the strings. But this time the event was part of a fund and consciousness raiser for 2003 European Cycle Messenger Championships. Once again, Steve came over for the event, and once again he was beaten by the home town boy.
After the ECMC, the London Bicycle Messenger Association was looking for a big social event, that would also serve as a fund-raiser. We decided that we would organise a night of bands, bikes and beer. The name ‘Rollapaluza’ was invented for the event.
Area 10, a squatted warehouse in Peckham, was hired, and we organised our own bar. 3 bands played and the event went on til the early hours. For the first time, an out-of-towner won, and for the first time Crissima Pearce failed to win the female event.
Since then Rollapaluza has been all over London, and gotten bigger and better, even taking over Shoreditch Town Hall. But although Rollapaluza is becoming the next big thing in cycling, it has remained a messenger thing. It was invented by London messengers, and is currently operated by ex-messengers. Rollapaluza X returns the rock’n‘roller race to its roots. It will be at the Horseshoe, Clerkenwell Close, Friday 25th January and entry will be £4. Messengers race for free. The organisers tell me that only messengers will be allowed to race.
Watch Zack Speedfast’s London Goldsprint 2000 video (check out Caspar, Winston, Marco, Elliott, Sarah looking very young).
Twenty Questions - Special Guest - Zack Speedfast
Messengerpaluza II - Janky, Nhatt fastest couriers in London
Rollapaluza Donkey Derby 20th March
Roller racers rock record crowd
Then and now
Zack Speedfast 'cheats death' - again!
Zak Speedfast chickens out of Courier Nocturne!
Lost in the Crowd Alleycat: An In-depth Analysis
Confessions of a Rock 'n' Roller Racer
Rollapaluza IV: A New Skool Rules