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Olav Kooij has finished fourth in the first stage of Paris-Nice. After a chaotic final phase, the Dutch sprinter from Team Jumbo-Visma started the group sprint in a strong position, but in the last metres, he just missed out on the podium.
The race exploded on one of the final's two challenging climbs. On the Côte de Milon-La-Chapelle, INEOS Grenadiers and UAE Team Emirates accelerated and split the peloton. After a battle for bonification seconds about six kilometres from the finish, Vingegaard, Tadej Pogacar, and Pierre Latour even rode ahead for a while.
One kilometre later, the peloton caught up with the three, after which a bunch sprint proved inevitable. The 21-year-old Kooij was in the ideal spot and quickly accelerated away from Sam Bennett's wheel. It seemed that the Dutchman and Tim Merlier would sprint for the win, but the sprint lasted a few metres too long for Kooij.
"Olav rode a very good final and was always in the perfect place."
He spoke of a fair sprint. "Everything came together after the last climb. Edoardo Affini and I were well positioned behind the guys from Soudal Quick-Step. Ultimately, I ended up behind Bennett, which was perfect. In the last corner, we attacked, and we were all free to sprint. Even though there is always room for improvement, I had a good chance of winning. Still, fourth place was the maximum possible today."
Sports director Marc Reef was satisfied with how the opening stage went. "It was crucial to get off to a strong start on the last ascent, where also bonus seconds could be earned. Jonas went for it, but unfortunately, three riders were faster. Regarding position, the focus was also on Olav, and I think we did that well. Edoardo and Jan helped Olav in a formidable way. Olav rode a very good final and was always in the perfect place. Unfortunately, he was too quick for me, but we got off to a terrific start."