“There are many cycling teams around the world – all with their own story and all in it for different reasons. When Orange Monkey was formed in 2004 there was a clear vision, to reach the top in the sport we love, mountain biking.
2011 moved us a step closer to this dream with the arrival of a UCI license, this changed things on many levels but most importantly gave us a huge boost in confidence that we can actually fulfil our goals. To mark this historic event we made a bold decision to move away from our trademark orange kit and go for a more subtle black and white combination, this worked well and in our view was our best kit yet.
The UK team then went away for a testing weekend to get there figures and learn what this next stage in the development plan means - this was of course captured on camera!
After unofficially looking after South African star Rourke Croeser in 2010 we were delighted to get him to put pen to paper on a one year deal with the team. We were fully aware of Rourke’s extreme potential and he wouldn’t let us down! Rourke was joined by the existing team from 2010.
Everything seemed to be going so well until just days before we were due to fly out to Cyprus for our winter training camp two training bikes were stolen leaving us in real trouble! Luckily, Cannondale stepped in and made sure the riders got off to Cyprus – a real testament to how well we are looked after by those guys!
We were joined in Cyprus by triple Olympian and multiple National Champion, Oli Beckingsale who would go on to become a good friend of the team. His experience, knowledge and general story telling would keep the team amused for the whole two weeks! After races in the Sunshine Cup against some of the world’s best the team went their separate ways with Chris and Alex staying in Cyprus with another top pro who joined us for our camp, Lee Williams. Paul and Ben meanwhile made their way across to Israel to look for vital UCI points in three ranked events, this was to be quite some adventure.
Whilst the team were travelling and racing in Cyprus and Israel, Rourke had started to show some great early season form in South Africa and this culminated in him winning our very first National Championship giving Paul a great excuse to jump up and down shouting down the phone in a quiet Israeli café! He followed this up with a UCI Cat 2 win and a fourth place in the Continental Championships.
Our first World Cup was now upon us but it would only be Rourke in South Africa and made for a nail biting watch on the UCI timings site as he dropped his chain on the start loop leaving him dead last to come back to a thirteen position in front of his home fans!
Meanwhile back in the UK, the riders had a trip to Sherwood Pines and Dalby Forest in the National Series bringing mixed results. This was then followed up by races in the Netherlands for Alex and Ben, before the team went off to Belgium apart from Paul who took a trip to Hungary.
After three full months of using the wondferful world of Skype, we welcomed Rourke into Heathrow airport for his first stint in Europe starting with World Cups in the UK and Germany.
The World Cup in the UK was one of the pinnacles of the year for co-founders Will and Paul with years of hard work leading up to seeing the team set themselves next to the world’s elite in the arena of Dalby Forest. It was to be an emotional day with great rides from Rourke and Alex as they battled it out with the very best riders on the planet.
Next up it was Germany for the Offenburg World Cup, which saw the largest crowd of the year. By now the team were a tight unit and the buzz within the camp was amazing! This was helped by new mechanic, Michalis who joined us at the beginning of the season and proved to be invaluable with his knowledge, desire and dry sense of humour!
By now, the team were getting praise and eyebrows raised from within the paddock which gave us a great lift and showed us that there were at least one or two things we were doing well. Our policy has always been never to make the same mistake twice and so far this seems to be working well!
There was a first elite race win for Ben followed by a trip to Wasing Park for the National round before arguable our best national race of the season in Margam Park, Wales. Our first elite podium at a British national by Rourke and an end to the bad luck that had blighted his early season saw a second position for Alex in the junior category. There was heartbreak for Chris though who had a mechanical whilst heading for his best result of his career in sixth.
With the whole team in good form, there were some nerves as we headed north for the UK National Championships. The riders didn’t disappoint with Paul picking up his best result of the year and Alex likewise with an outstanding second place and still only a first year junior!
As the World Cup season drew to a close, the countdown to the World Championships began and with our star rider selected by South Africa we made our way out to show moral support. Rourke put in a fantastic ride on arguably the toughest course of the year, plagued by mechanicals he showed real grit and determination to fight for a thirty-first position.
This would be where we said goodbye to Rourke as he made his way back to South Africa for a few more races whilst we wrapped things up in Plymouth on a fantastic course put together by our sponsor XCRacer.com.
There was still time for one last trip as Ben took himself over to Poland and picked up his first UCI points with a great finish as he looks towards 2012. Some unfortunate news filtered back from SA as we got the news that Rourke had crashed in his first race back and torn his shoulder ligaments leaving him with an eight week layoff and ending his season earlier than expected.
The rider of the year trophy is similar in prestige to the FA Cup in football, well that’s our opinion anyway and this year it was decided by just a single vote but deservedly awarded to Rourke Croeser after a fantastic first year with the team!
2011 has been a turning point for Orange Monkey-Cannondale – we have moved up a level and with it increased the pressure and expectation that we put on ourselves. This year we visited 14 countries, travelled thousands of miles and gave everything we had to compete on the world stage.“