Kooij aims for stage wins on Giro d'Italia debut and to make his mark in spring classics
After 13 victories in 2023, Olav Kooij also aims for success in the new cycling year. The sprinter from Team Visma | Lease a Bike will debut in a grand tour in Italy and continue his journey of discovery in several spring classics.
Starting in his first grand tour was one of Kooij's biggest wishes. He will start the Giro d'Italia in May as a leader, together with Wout van Aert. He will be there to win stages. "I am looking forward to it. It will be a real challenge for me”, Kooij said. "I feel ready for it, and I am happy to ride the Giro for the team. I have had great results in the past few years, and I hope to repeat or even improve on them. It would be nice to win a stage in a grand tour.”
The Kooij-Van Aert duo have already proved their worth in the 2023 Tour of Britain with a series of stage wins and an overall victory. "We have rarely raced together, but the times we have, it has gone very well. I think we have a good feeling for each other, and it is a luxury for me to have him with us”, Kooij said. "After the spring classics, we will see who is ready for which stage. We will discuss what the course looks like and what our best plan is.”
On the flat stages, Kooij will have a strong rider in Van Aert in his sprint train. And the other members of that train can also push the pace. "With Edoardo Affini and Jan Tratnik, we have riders who know exactly how to do a lead-out. I can also learn a lot from their experience in the grand tours.”
With the Spanish one-day race in Almeria, the UAE Tour and Paris-Nice on the calendar, Kooij will also race several spring classics in the run-up to the Giro. "It's nice to do enough sprints before the Giro. I am also curious to see how far I can go in Milan-San Remo and Ghent-Wevelgem. These types of races should suit me. Who knows, maybe I can fight for prizes. In any case, our classic core is very strong across the board.”
Sportive director Merijn Zeeman sees excellent challenges for his riders: "Olav, Wout and Cian will get their chance in the Giro. We can cause a lot of excitement in Italy with this team. Not going for the GC is a different approach from last year and requires a different way of racing. But of course, we want to execute this plan to perfection.”
"I became the rider I am today on the Development Team."
The fact that Kooij has been one of the best sprinters in the world for some time now is partly due to his rapid development within the team. Kooij: "It's great that more and more guys from our development team are making the transition to the pro team. Just like me. I became the rider I am today on the Development Team.”
Head of Development Robbert de Groot agreed: "It is great to see that guys like Olav, but also Johannes Staune-Mittet and Per Strand Hagenes have made the move. As a development team, we will continue on our path, because training and delivering talented riders to the pro team will always be our main goal.”