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Dave Fletcher (Orange Monkey) second on the podium at British XC Nats
Mountain bike squad reflects on its 2012 season
The Orange Monkey-Cannondale pro cycling team will head into its third season in 2013. Having narrowly missed out on sending two of its athletes to the 2012 London Olympic Games, the team is refocusing on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil. In the shorter term, it is looking to upgrade from a professional UCI mountain bike team to an elite UCI mountain bike team.
"It's been a journey. 2012 has seen tears, jubilation, celebration, ecstasy and despair. We have and will work continuously to fulfill the high standards and targets we have set ourselves and with it hope to change the perception of cross country mountain biking in Britain," read a team press release.
"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." It did not provide any details.
In 2012, the team kicked off its season in South Africa, collecting several podiums until bad luck struck and Ben Roff broke his wrist just prior to the opening World Cup.
First year senior rider David Fletcher proved to be a valuable addition to the team, bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and some serious power.
Perhaps the highlight of the early season was when Rourke Croeser won the Belgacom U23 race in Stoumont and was fourth overall against Julien Absalon and Maxime Marotte.
Things didn't go so well at two British cross country national series events in a row, in which hopes for a victory were dashed when both Croeser and Fletcher punctured while in the lead. Then the team's worst results came at the World Cup in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.
Fletcher's luck turned around with a strong ride in La Bresse at the World Cup, where he started in 103rd and moved up to 44th. Croeser became the African Continental Champion in Mauritius while Alex Baker won his first junior national race of the year in Hopton Woods.
The team made history by becoming the first British UCI cross country squad to make its way to America and Canada for the World Cups, 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.
British nationals were another highlight as both Croeser retained his national championship title under pressure while Fletcher finished second only to three-time Olympian Liam Killeen.
At the world championships, Fletcher took 44th in the elite men's category as a first-year elite rider while Croeser was 18th in the U23 race.
Near the end of the season, Paul Beales and Croeser had the honor of representing the team in China at the Guiyang Invitational Tournament in September. Made to feel like kings with an opening ceremony, police escorts and five-star accommodations, the team called it a "truly eye opening and inspirational experience that we will never forget".
The season was rounded off with a 100-mile race at the Kielder 100 Croeser took a third place.