Kooij wins ninth stage Giro d'Italia after mighty sprint

Kooij wins ninth stage Giro d'Italia after mighty sprint

Olav Kooij has won the ninth stage of the Giro d'Italia. The 22-year-old homegrown Dutchman had the fastest legs in the streets of Naples after a tough finale. It was the first win in a grand tour for the Team Visma | Lease a Bike talent. “This is a dream come true.”

One day before the first rest day in the Giro, the peloton headed south towards the coastal city of Naples. There, a tough finale with several short climbs awaited the riders. Two riders formed the early breakaway, but the peloton kept the pair within reach. With about forty kilometres to go, everything was to be redone.

After the early breakaway was caught by the peloton, puncheurs like Julian Alaphilippe and Jhonatan Narvaez tried their luck on the hills. Meanwhile, some sprinters got dropped by the peloton, where Kooij kept making a good impression. Narvaez seemed to ride solo towards the stage win for a long time, but his late attack was nullified in the last metres. In a man-to-man duel between Kooij and Jonathan Milan, the Team Visma | Lease a Bike rider pulled of the perfect jump. A few centimetres were enough for Kooij to take his first stage win in a grand tour.

"This was the step I wanted to take"

Olav Kooij

“This is a dream come true”, Kooij responded afterwards. “Taking stage wins was our main goal before the start of this Giro. The first sprints didn't go perfectly for us, but today everything fell into place. Without Christophe Laporte as lead-out, we had to improvise. The team gave it their all to keep me in a good position. It was a fight on the tough hills, but I was in an excellent position in the final kilometre thanks to Tim van Dijke, after which I was able to finish. I have already had some nice victories in my career, but this was the step I still wanted to take.”

First stage win in grand tour for a homegrown rider

Kooij is the first rider formed by Team Visma | Lease a Bike Development to win a stage in a grand tour. It is a provisional highlight of Kooij’s five-year stay with the team in which the sprinter continues to grow steadily year after year. “I remember when he entered for a test in the summer of 2019 along with a lot of other riders we had selected for the newly established Development Team”, said Robert Wagner, sports director of Team Visma | Lease a Bike Development. As a former rider, the German has a lot of experience in bunch sprints and worked with Kooij from the beginning. “Of course we knew we had brought in a fast man, but the question is always how someone develops further. We tried to help him in that development as much as possible: in terms of training, race calendar, tactics and nutrition.”

Wagner is very proud of the steps Kooij has taken since then. “Yes, this is great to see. Of course we try to guide him as much as possible, but he has to do it himself. Olav is certainly not someone who speaks the loudest, but he knows exactly what he wants and what he has to do to achieve it. You can see that now.”

"Olav knows exactly what he wants and what he has to do to achieve it."

Robert Wagner, sports director Team Visma | Lease a Bike Development

This was immediately visible in his first races for the new Development Team. As an 18-year-old, he finished second in the Ster van Zwolle, his first race in the U23 category. He then won the Trofej Umag and Trofej Porec in Croatia before the corona crisis brought the cycling peloton to a standstill. Wagner: “In the summer, we were able to go on training camp with the development team again and then we immediately discussed with Olav and his parents that he would make the transition to the WorldTour team.”

He would make that step in February 2021. “Then we steadily built up his race calendar”, Wagner said. Kooij immediately competed in sprints among the pros and rode his first WorldTour race with the Tour of Poland. At the end of the year, he won his first two pro races in the Cro Race. At WorldTour level, he recorded his first victory a year later in the Tour of Poland. In 2023, he continued winning and was the fastest no less than 12 times. To all these impressive achievements, he now adds a provisional new highlight in 2024: a stage victory in the Giro d’Italia.

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