Ten years after launching a professional mountain biking team in Waltham Abbey, Orange Monkey’s manager wants his riders to continue their surge up the rankings by securing a place in the top 15 teams in the world.
Paul Beales and childhood friend Will Cooper raced together as teenagers for Cyclone Cycles, a shop in Waltham Abbey’s Market Square, but after the store closed down the pair decided to start their own team.
Formed in the hills of Essex, Orange Monkey Pro Team now boast six riders including four from Great Britain, one from Switzerland and another from South Africa.
One of the British riders, David Fletcher, is currently the top mountain biker in the country and the team also hope to have at least three of its riders representing their countries at the Commonwealth Games later this year.
Orange Monkey are currently ranked number 19 in the world but Beales, now joint team manager, says the team are aiming to push even higher.
“In 2010 we set ourselves a five-year goal to reach the top 15 in the world,” said Beales, who ditched a job in IT to focus all his efforts on cycling.
“The top 15 teams in the world are the elite teams and they get a lot of financial benefits – it’s a bit like being in the Champions League in football.
“We want to get there by next year and we think we can. Three years ago we were 70th in the world and now we’re 19th so we’ve made good progress.”
So where did the name Orange Monkey come from?
“It seems like there should be a good story behind it, doesn’t it?,” Beale said. “But to be honest Will and I just wanted to come up with something different.
“Most cycling teams are named after their club or whatever so we matched up colours with animals and came up with Orange Monkey. We like it.”
The group often train in Epping Forest but such is the nature of competition, the riders find themselves pushing pedals all over the world.
It’s a full-time job for all the riders who spend up to 30 hours a week on the bike, as well as additional time in the gym or the swimming pool.
It’s hard work but Beales insists it’s definitely worth it.
“I love racing – racing is obviously why Will and I started the team but there are so many other rewards too,” he said.
“We get to travel all over the world and to see some absolutely amazing places.”
Flying around the globe is an expensive business however, and Orange Monkey have relied on the support of local businesses including Brooker Road’s CSS Motors and Sun Street’s Orchid 54 who have recently agreed to sponsor the team.
Beales said: “It’s always been important to us to have support from local businesses rather than big multi-nationals and we’ve been very humbled by the amount of help we’ve had from the local area over the last two years.
“Travelling the world for races is expensive and we’re always on the lookout for new sponsors.”
Orange Monkey are hoping to finish in the top 20 of the seven-race World Series this year and the team’s female South African rider, Mariske Strauss, is set to race at the Cape Epic in her home country next month.
Closer to home, Fletcher and Billy Harding will be hoping to win the Elite Men and Elite Junior events respectively at the National Series to be held in Essex on March 30.
The other riders in the team are Ben Roff and Rab Wardell.
For more information on the team and its races, visit their website at www.myorangemonkey.com.