Laura Meisel-Dennis is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill cycling
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
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
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
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
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
“ 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
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
"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
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
Thanks to Peter Ford, CycleSportNews.com
for this report.