LOCAL cyclist Matthew Walls pedalled his way to gold for Great Britain at the European Championships in Glasgow.
The 20-year-old, a former pupil at St Joseph’s and Crompton House, triumphed in the men’s elimination race as he made his senior championship debut.
Walls, who described it as a “fantastic week”, beat Portugal’s Rui Oliveira in the final
He said: “I was strong enough to lead from the front and that is what I did.
“It is a great competition and I’m just glad I got selected for it. It was a fantastic week.
“I was very happy, excited and very pleased how the race went as all the hard work I had done paid off.”
In the elimination race, all the riders set off together and every other lap the last rider to cross the finish line is eliminated.
Walls, whose ultimate dream is to win an Olympic Games gold on the track and become a world champion on the road, added he didn’t have many expectations as he headed for Scotland.
He explained: “I was very happy to even make the step up to have been selected for the event. It was my biggest race to date.
“I went to ride as hard as I could and as smart as I could and to test myself against some of the best riders in the world.”
Walls, long been tipped to achieve glory at senior championship level, also competed in the scratch race.
As for the experience of competing in the European Championships, Walls said: “The build up was similar to other big events I have competed in terms of the volume of training I did.
“I felt there was a lot more support which meant the riders could purely focus on the racing.
“The event itself was different as it was multi-sport and there were many different athletes around.”
Walls has this season also competed in endurance events on the track as well as in a lot of road races.
His reputation has grown in recent years with successes at junior and U23 level on the European stage in team pursuit, madison, omnium and scratch races to underline his versatility.
Walls has been revealing how he became involved in the sport.
He competed at triathlon as a youngster and, as he excelled in the cycling element, it was suggested he should pursue it by going to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.
From there, he joined Eastlands Velo with whom he started racing. He was later invited to join the Great Britain talent team.
Walls worked his way through the different programmes and is currently in the senior academy which is the Great Britain U23 development team.
He says he is indebted to the help and support he received from family and friends, explaining they helped him through the many hard times he had experienced.
Walls also paid tribute to both his schools, explaining: “I got a lot of support from both as I had to miss a lot of lessons as I was travelling around the country racing.
“I was very behind with my work and teachers went out of their way and helped me catch up, even in their own time.”