Scottish Commonwealth mountain biker Rab Wardell has joined the UK's leading cross country mountain bike team for a milestone 2014 season. The Glasgow-based racer was left stranded following a last minute announcement that his 2013 team, Trek Factory Racing, would be downsizing their cross country program to focus on the road, cyclo-cross and enduro market. Following talks with a number of teams and sponsors at the end of 2013, a deal was struck with the Orange Monkey Pro Team.
Orange Monkey is about to embark on its 10th season and has grown to become one of the most well recognised outfits on the World Cup circuit. The UCI Mountain Bike Team's reputation for developing talent and allowing that to flourish, and are a great fit for Wardell, now into his 10th season an elite racer. The deal gives a boost to the Glasgow-based racer's campaign to represent Scotland in his second Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow this summer.
Wardell will make his debut for Orange Monkey at Dig in at the Dock, a leading cyclo-cross race in Scotland, and will then contest the British Cyclo-cross Championships in Derby. Following this brief cyclo-cross campaign, he will resume training for a heavy mountain bike program in South Africa and Europe running from March and into May.
He will race the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race in South Africa alongside teammate Ben Roff. The time spent in South Africa will offer a number of Glasgow 2014 qualification opportunities including round 1 of the UCI World Cup in Pietermaritzberg, South Africa. The rest of the year will be a mix of British Cycling Cross Country Series, UCI World Cup and if selected for Scotland the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at the end of July.
"I'm really looking forward to the coming year with Orange Monkey Pro Team," said Wardell. "Through 2012 and 2013 I've been impressed with Orange Monkey's vision and professionalism. To have the opportunity to join them for what is for both of us our 10th year in professional cycling is perfect. The program of races is just brilliant and offers me the chances I need to progress as well as to earning the right to race for Scotland. It gives me the chance to travel, to ride and compete with people from different cultures and backgrounds, which is important to me."
"It's exciting to be able to offer some assistance to the development of younger riders and I am really looking forward to racing the Cape Epic with Ben Roff. He is improving all the time and was particularly impressive in Langkawi at the end of 2013. I'm sure that with Dave Fletcher, Ben and I in the elite races at the British Cycling Cross Country Series, we will be pushing to have riders on the steps of the podium at every round. It's going to be really interesting to see how Mariske [Strauss] and Billy [Harding] develop this coming year as well. They've got so much talent!"