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Kooij outside top ten in opening stage UAE Tour

Kooij outside top ten in opening stage UAE Tour

Mixed feelings for Team Visma | Lease a Bike. The Dutch team did not manage to come close to the win in the opening stage of the UAE Tour with Olav Kooij. The young Dutch sprinter did show himself at the front in the final kilometer, but ultimately could not go for the first day's victory. Loe van Belle grabbed the white jersey along the way.

Along the way, the peloton rode on long and wide roads through the desert. The opening stage of the second WorldTour stage race of 2024 could become the supplier of some nice postcards, but for Team Visma | Lease a Bike it will be one without extra cachet. After some good work by his teammates, Kooij did get into a promising position in the tricky finishing street, but he eventually dropped back on the uphill stretch.

Thanks to a clever trick during the stage, Loe van Belle will start tomorrow's time trial in the white jersey. "While doing some work for Olav, I learned through communication that there was still one bonification second to grab at an intermediate sprint. I thought to myself to give it a try. Riding in the white jersey in a WorldTour race is a nice bonus. It remains very special for me to be able to ride around in such a strong field of competitors. Many of the guys I used to watch on TV are now colleagues. I still enjoy that every time," the 22-year-old Van Belle said.

The Dutchman admits that capturing the white jersey was not priority number one. "We wanted to go for the win with Olav. Unfortunately that didn't work out. However, in such a strong field of competitors, that's no shame. Fortunately, new opportunities are coming soon. Each time it's going to be decided on the smallest details. The confidence in Olav is and remains high, so we will do everything in the coming week to win a stage."

"The sprint was very hectic as expected beforehand," stated sports director Maarten Wynants. "Everything went fine for us, except for the last few hundred meters. Tim van Dijke was still in the lead at the end, but didn't see Olav in his wheel at that point. Olav then got close to the front row, but in the end couldn't compete with the competition. Fortunately, there are still some chances coming up this week."

"There are still some chances coming up this week"

Maarten Wynants

The sprint caused a massive crash in the final kilometer, with Attila Valter also crashing. "Attila got involved and is somewhat battered at the moment. At first glance the damage doesn't seem to be too bad. We are happy that for now it looks like he can continue his way," Wynants says.

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