By Vern Pitt
Matt Walls has said he keeps improving and there’s still further things to work on after he claimed a bronze medal in the World Championship omnium with a gutsy ride in the final points race.
The Oldham-born rider had a strong start to the competition coming second in the scratch race and seventh in the tempo race. That meant that at the halfway point of the competition he was fourth.
He slipped back slightly to fifth after the elimination race which he finished eleventh.
Then in the final points race Walls bided his time and gained a lap in the second half of the race with an outstanding effort where he and Australian Cameron Meyer hung out in front of the bunch for over twenty laps. That lifted Walls into second position until Dutchman Jan Willem van Schip also took a lap in the dying stages leapfrogging the Brit.
“It's unbelievable, it's my second champs,” the 21-year-old said. “Last year I came away with 6th, earlier in the week I was fourth [in the scratch race] and now third so I just keep improving on myself, learning from mistakes and coming back stronger.”
But he knows there is still further areas for improvement. He said: “I just got caught out in the elimination and in the tempo, tactically I wasn’t there but mistakes are made, I’ll go away and learn on them and come back stronger.”
Assessing the final points race he said: “I knew coming into it I was coming in fifth and I was a fair few points behind a medal, I knew I had to do something, I'd picked up some points in the sprints, I knew I wanted to make the jump, I had to get a lap somehow. Luckily Cam was going and I jumped on with him and he pretty much dragged me round for the lap.”
Despite his showing here Walls faces stiff competition for a seat on the plane to the Tokyo Olympics. Both Ethan Hayter and Ollie Wood are also very good bunch racers and arguably have better team pursuiting credentials.
Walls said: “This performance puts me in a good place but we’ve got a few riders in the team that are unbelievably strong as well. It’s going to be tough making selection but I just have to wait and see.”
As Walls was winning a bronze medal Madison rider Neah Evans was attending to her wounds, though she said it was her pride that had been hurt most following a heavy crash.
Evans came down after finding herself caught in the middle of the USA pair as they executed a hand sling.
The Scot said: “I’ve felt better. I felt a lot of adrenalin in the race so it’s not really hit home. Tomorrow I’ll probably be feeling sorry for myself. Hopefully there’s not any longer term injuries. At the moment it’s just superficial and a lot of pride. A lot of pride.”
Explaining the crash at the championships in Berlin she said: “It is a Madison, it was kind of carnage. The crash was partly my fault. There was a change but I didn’t see it until the last minute. By then I’d committed to coming over with a lot of speed and I hoped to be able to push them off a little bit but… Madison is absolute mayhem.”
Until that point GB team, which has consistently been one of the fastest in the Madison since its introduction in 2016, had been in the hunt for a medal as the race broke down with riders all over the boards.
Evans’s Madison partner Elinor Barker said: “I’m pretty frustrated… We were just saying that was quite a different race from what we planned for. The races over the last two to three years have been sprint dominated. Very few have been won by getting a lap or being off the front for a long period of time. Very very few of them have been splintered like that.
“So it was a little different to how we prepared and what our plan had been so we had to alter it quite a bit and I guess we didn’t alter it well enough.”
It’s the second crash that has undone medal hopes at the World Championships. Yesterday Laura Kenny suffered a heavy fall onto her face in the first race of the four-race omnium, scuppering her medal hopes.
Barker said she didn’t know if the implosion of their Madison hopes would impact on selection from a stacked squad of women’s endurance riders for the Olympics in Tokyo this summer. She added: “There is nothing else to select off from going forward until now.”
Evans added that the form they had displayed in Berlin boded well for the Olympics. “You cannot have two massive peaks in the same year. We know we have more to give. It’s good, it’s a warning. We held our own in the team pursuit. It fell away a little bit in the Madison but we were there and in the mix. Come Tokyo we will be in a very good place.”
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