First race after his Olympic victory: Matt Walls starts the second half of his season with the Tour of Norway
Matt Walls returned from the Olympic Games in Tokyo with two medals. After his triumph in the Omnium, he also won silver in the Madison with his partner Ethan Hayter. Now, his focus turns entirely to the road.
As the reigning European champion, Walls was considered one of the favourites to take out the Omnium, but the fact that his performance was ultimately enough to win the gold medal in such an outstanding fashion came as a surprise even for Matt. He tried to put his feelings into words: "It’s still unbelievable, I hadn’t expected this at all. Of course, I wanted to win a medal, but to win two at my first Olympic Games is amazing. The moment when I did the lap of honour with the British flag around my shoulder is something that I will never forget.”
Part of BORA - hansgrohe since 2021, the preparation was akin to walking a tightrope. In addition to road racing, training camps and competitions on the track were also part of his program. He reflects: "The support that I had from both BORA - hansgrohe and British Cycling was great. Road racing formed the basis. I think that I’ve developed very well as a rider this year. Last year, I only did one road race, but this year I had a good spring with several races, including some Belgian semi-Classics. But I was also able to take part in all the important British Cycling camps, which was vital in order to not lose speed."
This hybrid preparation program was also new territory for BORA - hansgrohe Head Coach Dan Lorang, who notes: "First of all, you have to emphasise that the cooperation with British Cycling was really very good and I think it was only through this cooperation that Matt’s success was ultimately possible. We had already coordinated the races on the road and camps on the track in our season planning. It has to be said that Matt really developed very well in the spring. In terms of aerobic endurance, he has shown a great leap in performance, but he has also reached a new level in his ability to tolerate stress in general. That's why he coped very well with hard training phases. In the last eight weeks prior to the Olympics, we coordinated his training plans in detail with British Cycling. This resulted in a good combination of sessions on the road and on the track."
Still, there were also difficult times, especially when Matt tested positive for COVID-19 before a race in Belgium in the spring. Matt reflects on this challenging time: "That was really tough. I was in quarantine and could only watch the guys racing on TV. At that time, I also really didn't know if I would be fit again in time, as the qualification was still to come and I had lost a few days on the bike. I then just concentrated on going one step at a time each, every week, and was able to get back to my previous level. I think the races on the road before certainly helped me get there too. And ultimately, everything turned out well.”
However, now the Olympic champion is aiming to concentrate on the road. At the Tour of Norway, he’ll be wearing the BORA - hansgrohe jersey for the first time since his return from Tokyo. Regarding his goals, Matt says: "Of course the focus is now on the road, but I don't really have any concrete aims at the moment. Somehow the time since my return has also been so intense that I’ve had to process all of that first. I just want to develop as a racer, which has already worked out well in the spring. I think if I keep working hard, sooner or later I’ll be able to use my speed on the road, because of course I want to get good results and win on the road at some point. It's hard to say whether that's already possible this year. But if I just keep taking one step at a time, I'm confident that I can be successful there as well."