Kooij secures sixth place for Team Visma | Lease a Bike in Gent-Wevelgem

Kooij secures sixth place for Team Visma | Lease a Bike in Gent-Wevelgem

Olav Kooij secured a top ten place in Gent-Wevelgem for the second year in a row. The 22-year-old Dutchman sprinted to sixth place in a group behind leading duo Mathieu van der Poel and winner Mads Pedersen.

As predicted, the race was broken open in De Moeren due to the tight wind. Everything merged again after echelons in the peloton, where Kooij was alert. Before that, Team Visma | Lease a Bike had already lost Jan Tratnik after a crash. The damage turned out to be not alarming afterwards.

Traditionally, the climbs of the Kemmelberg and the gravel sectors, the so-called Plug Streets, are the zones of truth in Gent-Wevelgem. On the first climb of the Kemmelberg, Tim van Dijke was able to follow favourites Van der Poel and Pedersen. When the world champion accelerated again moments later, the 24-year-old Team Visma | Lease a Bike rider had to let go the head of the race.

Van der Poel and Pedersen then got to the front. In the peloton, hope for a possible victory was vanishing. A strong Tiesj Benoot and Tim van Dijke did their bit in the chase, but Van der Poel and Pedersen stayed in front. In the streets of Wevelgem, Kooij eventually managed to secure sixth place in the group sprint. It was the second top-ten spot in as many participations for the young sprinter.

"I would have liked to be on the podium"

Olav Kooij

"I would have liked to be on the podium," said Kooij. "Unfortunately that wasn't possible at the end. After a 250-kilometre race, I had to wait and see how good the legs were for the sprint. They didn't feel super anymore."

"Before the final climb of the Kemmelberg, things slowed down in the peloton," he continued. "The gap to the escapees got bigger and bigger, so it soon became clear that we would sprint for the places of honour. The wind blew in their favour, which made it hugely difficult to make up time. In hindsight, this is a great result."

Benoot, who experienced rib pain after the E3 Saxo Classic, also finished in the peloton. "I've already had more pleasant days on the bike," stated the Belgian. "I started here to feel how my body would react. The opening phase was not super, but as the race progressed I felt better and better. It was a shame that the collaboration in the peloton was not perfect. We were in a lost situation, but we definitely tried. It's positive that I was still able to play such a big role in the final in the end."

Sports director Maarten Wynants saw a combative Team Visma | Lease a Bike. "The guys fought today, but the two best riders in the race were clearly in front. In the closing stages of the race, we definitely missed riders like Jan Tratnik and Christophe Laporte. They always play their part in the finals. This result is not a disappointment. In hindsight, a place of honour was the highest possible and we should be satisfied with that."

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