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Peter Ford at CycleSportNews.com has sent in this story of a remarkable road race performance by junior rider, Laura Meisel-Dennis.

In a recent race, she borrowed two bikes when hers failed and was forced to ride in socks because the replacement bikes were not compatible with her shoes / cleats.

Laura Socks It To the Opposition

Laura Meisel-Dennis is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill cycling superstar.

You won’t see her climbing to the top of the podium at a UCI World Cup event just yet, but if her efforts in the recent Bridge2Bridge Classic in Bargo (NSW) are anything to go on, Laura is destined to capture the admiration of loads of fans over the next few years.

Most riders finish races in full gear, digging in deep and beautifully moulded to their bikes, however, Laura found a way to cross the finish on a borrowed postie’s push-bike, looking slightly embarrassed and pushing the big gears (did I say gears??) wearing nothing but socks on her feet.

“Well I was in the first 5 because the bunch had split into two” Laura recalled.

“We were coming up for our last lap when I felt someone rubbing my back wheel. I tried to hold my bike steady, but suddenly I was spinning and going nowhere.

At first I thought my chain had just come off, but when I unclipped to stop and looked down at the ground, my derailleur was up near my foot.

I silently had a couple of choice words that I can’t repeat, and then, me being me, thought to myself, ‘ the other bunch hasn't passed me yet, so I can either sit here and sulk, or I can try an get another bike’.

Laura put her “crippled” bike onto her shoulder and started to jog up the hill.

Part way up the climb, she spotted a really old bike, and next to this piece of antiquity, a much newer machine attached to one of the local female police officers.

Laura sheepishly looked at her and asked if she could borrow her bike.

Now, if there’s one thing a police officer is not going to give up, apart from his or her service weapon, it’s departmental property on two wheels, so after enduring a puzzled glare from the senior constable, Laura stood as much chance of getting a police officer's mountain bike, as she had of getting free tickets the local policeman’s ball.

Not that they have very many policeman’s balls in Bargo.

As it turned out, the police officer was none other than the highly respected Senior Constable, Chris Millman, who was an huge pillar of support for Bargo cycling, and one of the key figures in helping to get the race staged in the first place.

Chris was part of a much appreciated police presence at the Bridge2Bridge, and was kind enough to bring Laura's abandoned shoes back to the marshalling area after the race.

However, before Chris's kind gesture, an even greater favour awaited our hapless Laura.

A minor miracle was about to occur.

One of the race marshals, who turned out to be a local postie yelled out, “Take mine!!” and Laura was overwhelmed by his generosity- a Southern Highlands apparition, a miraculous stroke of good luck.  

By this time the second bunch had passed, so Laura took off her shoes, jumped onto the rather old style Postie’s bike, and gallantly took off in hot pursuit.

The borrowed bike had fairly new mountain bike gears, but Laura was forced to ride it “tippy toes” because it was so large, and the final lap brought loud hoots of laughter from curious onlookers and yells of delight from just about everyone around the course including her beloved coach, Mary Ann Simpson, who was struggling to maintain her composure while taking a few not-so-discreet photographs of this unique sight.

Laura was keenly looking for any place to hide by the time she hit the last corner.

“As I got nearer to the finish, a slightly smaller rider than me, offered me her bike, so with a very hurried "thank you sooooo much", I jumped on hers and surprisingly started to catch up with the bunch in front of me”.

The three slight up hill climbs on the run home proved to be a bit challenging, especially if you are riding in only your socks, and in the end, Laura was able to pull off a major surprise by finishing a fantastic ninth!!!!

“Not too many people would be nice enough to lend a complete stranger their bike” Laura added, “Let alone to a girl wandering around in her white Pierre Cardin socks with stars striping across them in red an black”.

For Laura Meisel-Dennis, a top 5 finish would have been very satisfying, but as always, racing is so unpredictable.

“This year has mainly been work leading up to 2006 which I'm hoping will be my most successful year”. Laura told CSN.

“My main focus has been racing to train, instead of racing to place. The Bridge2Bridge was my first real competition but, as you know, things don’t always go to plan”.

In the long term Laura hopes to medal at next year’ track nationals, and with any luck, she hopes to get selected in the world squad after that.

Between now and then it will be a matter of getting her times up and doing reasonably well at the NSW State Titles. 

Inside the “cone of silence” Laura tends to have a little grizzle about all the kilometres she has to ride on the road (“…if my coach heard me complaining she'd smack me hehe), and for this reason, the track appears to be a bit kinder on the body.

Laura also admits there is a greater element of excitement in track racing.

For Laura Meisel-Dennis, a girl who still enjoys knocking around with her non-cycling friends and just being a teenager at every opportunity, life in the world of competitive cycling first began when she went through a talent identification program 5 years ago.

“I was a fairly accomplished netball player back then, but cycling started to appeal to me, despite the “5 o’clock get ups”. I just thought the people I began to meet where extremely nice, and even though we were competitors, it didn't follow through to when we were training which is unlike most sports. So I quit netball cold turkey, and haven't looked back since”.

“Due to the many people and friends I have met through the close knit community of cycling it feels just like a part of my life rather then something I just do” Laura added.

Laura believes that women’s cycling is starting to come of age in Australia.

“ Female cycling has come along way from once being a male dominated sport, but in some way, it still is. That’s why when races like the Bridge2Bridge come up, you see women you wouldn't normally know existed.

But then again, you get women that don't mind competing against males if the numbers are low, which, in some cases, does happen”.

For Laura, a race like the Bridge2Bridge is symbolic of fairness and opportunity.

Race Co-Ordinator, Sally Knyvett, would be the first to agree.

"It takes a huge effort to stage a race like this" Sally told CSN. "It involves enormous Council, Police, RTA and resident support, and after one and a half years of planning and organisation, we were able to provide an event that ran like clockwork, and offered the most prize money for any women's race in Australia".

"Cycling NSW was there with 2 video cameras for the finish ,a commissaire, 2 judges and the CEO. They supplied all the equipment, and expertise, and we were even able to set up 2 toilets, especially for the girls, that were exceptionally clean and fresh".

Laura Meisel-Dennis was just part of an huge band of women that appreciated this event, even though she only had her socks to push her over the line.

So despite an unlucky 9th place, but still in the money,Laura Meisel-Dennis'  life is fairly focused at the moment, and her cycling goals seem tantalizingly close.

And if her choice of “current cycling hero” is anything to go by, her success in the sport seems assured.

“The person I admire most is Amanda Spratt. She’s only a year older than me, but her dedication levels are huge, and I have a lot of respect for her and what she has achieved.

I really appreciate the fact that she always has a smile on her face, and is so friendly towards newcomers in the sport.

In fact, even though we are very competitive out on the road or on the track, the next time we meet, she always says hello".


Thanks to Peter Ford, CycleSportNews.com for this report.












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Photo: Laura Meisel-Dennis: The girl in the socks
© Sue Johnson, Cycling in Bargo

Photo: Postie girl on a postie bike!

© Sue Johnson, Cycling in Bargo


Photo: "Me and my coach" Mary Ann Simpson with Laura at the 2004 Tour de Femme

© Courtesy of L.Meisel-Dennis