Races between bicycle couriers have been established long before today’s alley cat races, the French have been staging races between couriers as early as the late 19th century. The French Critérium des Porteurs de Journaux consisted of a route around Paris with a series of checkpoints. Each racer starts with a 15 kilogram load of newspapers, at each check point they had to swap out their load for a new stack of newspapers of the same weight and then make their way to the next check point. All this in 27 kilometers of Parisian streets. The final stretch of the race was an 800 meter climb up the roughly cobbled Rue Lepic to the finish line at Montmarte- the highest point of Paris. Sounds fun right?
The bikes themselves are long in wheelbase, equipped with a sprung leather saddle, backswept bars, a full set of fenders, and of course the porteur rack upon which the loads are carried.
All images were pulled from blackbird which has an amazing collection of photographs and stories pulled from French newspapers of the times.