Olympic champion Matt Walls acknowledges pressure to succeed in crucial contract year with Bora-Hansgrohe
The Briton faces the challenge of proving to his team that his first season results can be repeated
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Olympic omnium champion Matt Walls has admitted that the 2023 season is vitally important for his future career trajectory as he looks to get back on track following a season of disappointment.
The Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter had an excellent debut season in the WorldTour in 2021, winning Gran Piemonte and a stage of the Tour of Norway.
Those wins on the road came after he secured gold in the velodrome for Great Britain at the Tokyo Olympics, where he also collected silver in the Madison alongside Ethan Hayter.
Such victories immediately elevated expectations, but 2022 “was pretty terrible” for Walls who crashed no less than five times, including a spectacular tumble over the velodrome’s fence at the Commonwealth Games that left him with severe concussion.
The Mancunian begun the 2023 season at the Tour of Oman fully aware that he is also entering the final 12 months of his initial three-year contract with the German team.
“There’s quite a bit of pressure,” he told Cycling Weekly at the race. “But the team have been really good about it. Last year was basically a write off, but hopefully it comes together this season and all goes to plan.”
The idea is simple: “The whole aim of the year is trying to get some wins again after such a bad year,” he said.
“I’ve got to focus on these races [to build form] and then in the next races I have to try to do something.
“It’s taken a bit of time to get back into it after having quite a long time off the bike, but we have a good plan for the season and hopefully I keep getting better race on race and the wins will come.”
The 24 year old, who lives with Hayter and Bahrain-Victorious’ Fred Wright in Manchester, is regarded as one of Britain’s fastest male riders.
Speaking to CW in November, he described himself as a “tactical sprinter”. “I don’t put out the biggest numbers compared to other riders,” he explained, “but I can normally put myself in a good position to do well.”
While he has one eye on track racing in the build-up to the Paris Olympics in 2024, his focus this season is firmly on the road. “I think it has to be at this point,” he said.
“For the type of rider I am, someone who does bunch races in on the track, the track compliments me pretty well. After the Games in Tokyo I went straight back to the road and that’s where I got my wins, so coming off a decent block of track works for me. But after the year I had, it’ll be nice to focus on the road.”
Walls will skip the Classics and instead have a program dominated by stage races. He told this publication a few months ago that he wanted “to get a Grand Tour in”, but he confirmed in Oman that as things stands “that’s not on the plan. It depends on how the season goes.”
He continued: “I’ll mainly be racing stage races. Winning is the plan and we’ll see how that goes.”
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Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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