Orange Monkey-Cannondale - 2012 Review of the Season

Orange Monkey-Cannondale After the huge success of 2011, our first year as a professional UCI team, we were extremely excited to start 2012 with a bang! It was for this reason we decided to start our year in South Africa with a 5 week training camp near the home of our South African National U23 Champion, Rourke Croeser. This would be the first time we had not started the year in Cyprus at the Sunshine Cup but would provide us with the perfect base to go into the first round of the UCI World Cup.

Our commonwealth Games prospect, Ben Roff would go to South Africa earlier than his team mates, New Year’s Day in fact and spend the entire winter with Rourke preparing for the long season ahead. He was joined by team mates and management in February and the team would race in the Giba Gorge, Karkloof and KZN Pietermaritzburg races before going into the World Cup on what many described as the toughest in the world. Ben Roff The team were on fire in these early season races with everyone picking up podiums and top results before tragedy struck in practice for KZN Pietermaritzburg – Ben, in the form of his life broke his wrist on the tricky step descent leaving him heartbroken and unable to race for a chance at entering his first World Cup.

In the World Cup itself it seemed our luck had run out. Alex crashed out of the leading group in Juniors and Dave had a tough day in his first Elite World Cup finishing just outside the top 60. Rourke Croeser For Rourke, though, it was utter devastation as he finished the race in tears having been in the leading group of 4 Under 23’s before crashing hard and pulling himself together to scream back to an outstanding 17th place in front of his home fans. It could have been a very different day. The podium beckons.

We had the pleasure of working with outstanding sponsors once again in 2012, keeping on board all but a few from 2011 and adding Primalwear Clothing, Prologo Saddles and Madison Shimano to an already impressive line up!

The big news through the winter was the signing of Bronze World Junior medallist and top British athlete, David Fletcher who was a superb addition to a strong squad and bought with him a wealth of knowledge and some seriously big power! Dave was a first year Senior and would go on to record some amazing results throughout a busy and testing year. The rest of the team largely stayed the same. We said goodbye to Chris Andrews who had done a fantastic job for us and Paul continued on a domestic level whilst mixing racing with team management.

Orange Monkey-Cannondale Early season races would go well for the team with our first National Elite podium and triple podium with Alex, Dave and Rourke in Dalby Forest as well as some top results at the World Cup in Belgium, but the highlight of early season racing would be the Belgacom in Stoumont, Belgium where Rourke would take a 1st place Under 23 and 4th overall up against Julien Absalon and Maxime Marrotte!

It was not always joy though as we were denied a first Elite win at our British National Series twice in succession with both Rourke and Dave puncturing whilst in the lead at Scotland and Hopton Woods respectively. It was agony for Ben after recovering from the broken wrist only to have a succession of illnesses keeping him off the bike and a dip in form for all our riders saw us record our worst results at a World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

Alex Baker This was not to last though as the mid-season blip ended and Dave stormed to a phenomenal result in La Bresse World Cup, France from a grid position of 103 to 44th! Rourke became African Continental Champion in Mauritius and Alex won his first Junior National race of the year in Hopton Woods.

The team would then make history by becoming the first British UCI cross-country team to make their way to America and Canada for the World Cups (as far as we know) with both star riders in attendance. It would be a mixed time across the Atlantic with highs and lows but a huge learning curve and an inspiring time for both riders and management as we look to move the team forward and fulfil our dreams.

We were privileged to have a small insight into the workings of British Cycling throughout the season and thank Phil Dixon and his team for their support and encouragement in us throughout the year.

David Fletcher The National Championships would be yet another highlight in a fully packed year for the team with both Rourke and Dave excelling. Rourke retained his National stripes under huge pressure and off the back of a mammoth amount of travelling again showing his class whilst Dave came second only to “the killa” – 3 x Olympian, Commonwealth Games Gold medallist and established pro, Liam Killeen. These were two phenomenal results and gave us immense pride in our athletes.

The season had been long, starting way back in South Africa at the beginning of February but after 6 months of full on racing it was time for the biggest one of the lot, the World Championships! The boys had just enough in the tank to give this a real shot and proved what they are made of with two great results, Dave taking 44th in his first as a Senior and Rourke 18th in Under 23.

Rourke Croeser Ben had by now had some decent results back on the bike and already thinking to next year as he looks to chase a place at the Commonwealth games in 2014. Alex struggled towards the back end of the season but will no doubt come back stronger for the experiences he gained in 2012. Paul had a mixed year but a highlight was being chosen to film the previews for the Olympics at Hadleigh Farm!

Paul and Rourke also had the honour of representing the team in China at the Guiyang Invitational Tournament in September which was one of the biggest privilege’s the team has had. Not only was it attended by top teams such as Rabobank-Giant and Colnago-Suditrol but we were made to feel like kings with a superb opening ceremony, police escorts, 5 star accommodation and a fantastic race with fantastic people. A truly eye opening and inspirational experience that we will never forget.

Orange Monkey-Cannondale The season was rounded off with a 100 mile race at the Kielder 100 where amazingly after such a long hard season Rourke took a 3rd place finish with this gruelling event put on by our top sponsor SIP Events. Rourke described the race as the toughest he had ever done! One for the bucket list we think!

So what now for Orange Monkey…?

The team will go through some transition in the close season and you can expect to see new faces, sponsors and a slight change in strategy as we look to keep the progression going. 2013 will be our third year as a professional UCI team and having narrowly missed out on two athletes going to London 2012 our focus will now turn to Rio 2016 but first that coveted Elite Team status that we strive to achieve.

It’s been a journey. 2012 has seen tears, jubilation, celebration, ecstasy and despair. We have and will work continuously to fulfil the high standards and targets we have set ourselves and with it hope to change the perception of Cross-country Mountain biking in Britain.

We thank you all for your support, encouragement and look forward to a bright future!

A year in pictures - Gallery

To stay up to date with all our news, reports and announcements you can check us out on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Race hard…. Have Fun!
Orange Monkey