EXCLUSIVE by Trevor Baxter
WINNING three World Cup medals was tough enough for Matt Walls.
But the hardest part for the Shaw cyclist was answering all the messages of congratulations.
And with the National Championships taking place in Manchester later this month, the 20-year-old could be celebrating more successes.
Walls completed a clean sweep of medals at the pre-Christmas London World Cup, topped off by gold in the multi discipline omnium on the last day of competition.
He also gained bronze in the team pursuit with Fred Wright, Will Tidball, and Ethan Vernon before partnering Wright to finish runners-up to Denmark in the Madison.
“I set a target to get two podiums out of the three races and even then I thought that was ambitious,” explained the former Crompton House School pupil.
“So to come away with three podiums and one being gold was unbelievable.
“All my family were there on the final day and so it was pretty special to win in front of them.
“I guess there was a bit of added pressure but it made it a sweeter victory.
“When I looked at my phone afterwards it just went crazy with all the notifications.
“I spent two days trying to reply to everyone,” laughed Walls, who is set to defend three titles at the Nationals from January 25-27.
And it won’t be quite so noisy at the National Cycling Centre-home to GB Cycling’s successful track squad as it was in the capital.
“The crowd was so loud,” he added. “I have never ridden in front of such a big crowd.
“To see them all standing and hear them all cheering was an unbelievable experience.”
The Toyko 2020 Olympic hopeful achieved his maiden individual World Cup victory with a string of consistent omnium performances.
He was third in the scratch, second in the tempo race and second in the elimination race.
Mexico’s Ignacio Prado Juarez threatened that lead by drawing level with Walls’ overall points total by gaining a lap on the field.
But the Oldham prospect wasn’t to be denied at the Lee Valley VeloPark, proving too strong for Juarez in the closing stages while Olympic champion, Elia Viviani was third.
“I knew I was pretty sore from the previous few days,” said the European elimination champion of his final day success.
“In the first warm up I didn’t feel the best but I was putting out really good power.
“It was a matter of getting the results and save for myself for the later races.”
His World Cup campaign began with a thrilling bronze medal in the team pursuit. Trailing Italy by nearly two seconds in the closing stages of the four kilometres race, the British quartet roared back to beat Italy in the tightest of finishes.
“As a group, we hadn’t ridden together very much because two of the boys had only just joined the senior programme.
“With two and a quarter laps to go I was on the front and just got my head down and went as hard as I could.
“When I got back I watched a video and didn’t realise how close it was. I just thought ‘How did we manage that?’”
In Saturday’s Madison, Walls and Wright lost out to Danes Casper von Folsach and Julius Johansen.
“We knew we had good legs and we knew how to ride it,” added Walls. “So we thought we could get a result.
“We were a bit too far back against the Danes but coming out with silver was still fantastic.”
Despite his triumphs Walls knows GB riders are only as good as their last race.
“It is a constant battle,” he agreed. “You have to keep going and focus on the end goal.
“We’ve got the Track Nationals which have been good for me in recent years. Then hopefully I can get selected for the World Championships but there is such a lot of competition from within the team.”
However, a sunshine break in Tenerife helped re-charge the batteries over Christmas and Walls is ready to tackle his new challenges.
THE HSBC UK National Track Championships will take place at Manchester’s HSBC UK National Cycling Centre over the weekend of January 25-27, 2019.
Matt Walls will be one of several Great Britain Cycling team riders – among them Olympic, Paralympic and world champions – lining up to do battle for national titles and the coveted red, white and blue national champions’ jerseys.
Now, thanks to the Correspondent and GB Cycling one reader and guest can attend the sold-out Saturday night session.
To be in with a chance of winning, answer the question below and send your entries to Trevor Baxter, Units 3-4, 45 High Street, Uppermill, OL3 6HS or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Entries should reach us by Wednesday, January 23, 2019.
Jason and Laura Kenny are GB Cycling’s golden couple. But what was Laura’s maiden name when she started racing?
A: Trott B: Scott C: Lott
While evening sessions on both Saturday and Sunday are sold out, tickets remain for the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon sessions.
They are available from just £10, excluding fees. Tickets are available online: www.ticketmaster.co.uk/britishcycling