Ten years’ ago, Epping lads Paul Beales and Will Cooper decided to set up their own cycling team after the one run by their local Essex shop disbanded. Their goal was two-fold; to become a recognised British team and enhance the sport of mountain biking to a wider audience, bolstering its reputation.
Settling on the name Orange Monkey after a brainstorming session, within a few months they had managed to attract their first sponsor, LAS Helmets. With their bright orange kit and vocal supporters, they were quickly becoming noticed at races throughout the country, and within two years the team had grown to four.
In 2008 the team doubled in size, including three aspiring British athletes, one of whom, is still with them today. In the same year Paul and Will set up their Youth Development Programme which has gone from strength to strength, and continues to help young athletes to this day.
Two years’ later they ventured into the World Cup circuit for the first time; at the Dalby Forest race in the UK and the highly prestigious World Cup in Houffalize, Belgium.
After successes at both, there was now no turning back for the boys as they had set their sights on something even higher, embarking on a European World Cup adventure that saw them compete in Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, Holland, Hungary, Cyprus and Italy.
The signing of South African athlete Rourke Croeser in 2011 and Britain’s biggest talent, David Fletcher, the following year meant that they were now a fully-fledged professional mountain bike team, and had become a force to be reckoned with.
This year they achieved their highest-ever ranking in the World team league coming in 20th place – an increase of 48 places in just three seasons.
Passion has been the driving force behind Paul and Will’s desire to propel them on this incredible journey, supported by friends, colleagues and cyclists. Each year they have aimed higher, determined to improve the sport that is so dear to their hearts, and in the process help other athletes fulfil their dreams.
Although this is now a fulltime job, they are still fired with the same enthusiasm that got the team off the ground in 2004. Continuing to set new goals, and aiming high, this journey has been a fantastic ride so far, and the next six years promise to be even more exciting as they set their sights on the highest possible goal – World number 1.