The race course was grueling: long uphills, a dirt track, a jump into an alley, a steep downhill section that emptied into a cobblestone street inlaid with railroad tracks. One Seattle messenger reportedly crashed and broke his collarbone. At the jump into the alley, another messenger hurtled by, shouting, "I live for this shit!"

But one rider stood out from the scores of other racers circling this dicey course last weekend at the Cycle Messenger World Championships in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood ["Bike," Eli Sanders, Sept 11]. He wore black spandex biking shorts rather than the nonchalant cargo shorts favored by most couriers. He wore a green racing jersey. He had his brother there as support, providing food and water.

His name is Adam Ford, and his Irish looks and distinct accent give away his hometown: Boston. Ford, who has placed high in past Cycle Messenger World Championships (11th overall in both Philadelphia in 2000 and Toronto in 1995), cleaned up at this year's competition, taking first place in two big races Saturday.

"I don't think there was any doubt about who the fastest rider out there was," says Ford, 33. "That would be me." Ford won the sprints, a competition that sent wave after wave of riders racing uphill on Boren Avenue. He also won the prestigious "Alley Cat" race, a nighttime race through the city that tests speed and navigation abilities by mimicking a courier's daily routine.

"Taking first in the Alley Cat, especially from out of town, is insane," Ford says, noting that Seattle riders should have had an advantage because they know the area. "I'm actually a little bit surprised that I pulled that off." He points out that although Seattle messengers like to think they're strong in the hills, in the Alley Cat race the hills were precisely where he pulled away from the Seattle messengers.

That leads to a touchy question: What does Ford think of Seattle couriers after beating them on their own turf? Are Seattle riders as hard-edged as riders in Boston (a town the International Federation of Bike Messenger Associations once certified as the worst city in the world in which to be a messenger)?

Ford says: "It seems to me that [Seattle messengers] don't go quite as fast.... 'Cause you don't really need to. You can get from one end of the city to the other in two minutes at the most. They don't have that super-hard edge that you find in other cities."

Ford's politic, though: "I don't want to sound like I'm talking shit about any of the Seattle kids because they were nothing but nice. When I say hard-edged, I mean psychologically. There's no shortage of talent in this city."