Matt Walls and the riders to watch in 2021
From delayed Olympic dreams, lockdown in elite company to lining up alongside Peter Sagan. Matt Walls’ last 12 months on his way to the WorldTour have been been somewhat eventful given the times we are living in.
Lockdowns were the unfortunate theme of 2020 and, so far, 2021, with stagnated training the norm for the pros and us mere mortals looking for a group ride fix. For WorldTour neo-pro Matt Walls, taking part in group physical activity was less of a problem because his house mates Ethan Hayter (Team Ineos) and Fred Wright (Bahrain – Victorious) formed arguably the strongest household training bubble in the UK.
“I couldn’t exactly complain, because you could ride with your household. So the three of us being able to ride together was pretty cool.” Walls said.
“We moved in just before lockdown in March, just after Worlds so it was good timing. We were all on the academy together, I lived with Fred in Manchester in the academy house for a year or two years and then I lived with Ethan when I was out in Italy with the academy. So we have all lived together at some point and all get on well so might as well get a house together.”
During the spring lockdown these training days were common – Wright once pictured with an old race number fashioned into a sign reading “we live together” on his back. At that point Walls still had dreams of going to race on the track at the Olympics in August 2020, just a couple of months later he’d sign a contract with Bora-Hansgrohe as the German team’s road sprinting protege for 2021.
But as summer rolled around and the Olympics were shifted to 2021 Walls’s other track hopes and his housemates’s WorldTour commitments left him training alone once again. It wasn’t the ideal lead up to what is now a 2021 season pregnant with possibility but the amiable and upbeat Walls seems unfazed.
He recalls: “I was kind of jealous of them last year, because I had no racing going on and those two were off travelling about racing on the WorldTour and I was wishing I was in their place. I think we all push each other on to be better and there is going to be some competition there for sure [in the future] but it is all going to be light hearted. We all get on at the end of the day.”
Read the rest of this feature, which includes a look at the young riders to watch out for in 2021 in this week’s issue of Cycling Weekly, on sale 18 February. You can purchase one off issues online, or subscribe for a quarterly rate of just £28.99