Kooij ninth on first stage ZLM Tour
Surprisingly, the first bunch sprint of the ZLM Tour did not take place. Olav Ko...
Olav Kooij has won the first stage of the Four Days of Dunkerque. The 21-year-old rider was the fastest in the sprint of a small peloton after a hectic finale marred by several crashes.
The peloton set off from the start city of Dunkirk towards Abbeville. The riders covered 196.6 kilometres on the hilly course of the northern French stage race. After the race's official start in Dunkirk, the peloton quickly picked up speed. It subsequently split into two, but things settled down after a five-rider breakaway got to the front.
The peloton gave the escapees some breathing space, but a bunch sprint seemed inevitable. The pace of the sprinters' teams meant that the last escapees were caught at the six-kilometre mark. Unfortunately, the final was marred by two crashes, one just behind Kooij. In the end, the Dutchman had the fastest final push in his legs. It was his first victory after a long period of training.
"It was a question of timing”, Kooij said. "The last few kilometres we were riding into the wind, so it was challenging to prepare a perfect sprint as a team. The peloton went from left to right, so the situation was never under control. I didn't see the crash, but I heard it. I hope everyone is OK.”
"Happy to prove myself and finish"
"It was a goal to win a stage here. To do it on the first day is fantastic. I waited a long time to sprint today, but I was confident. If you can win a bunch sprint in Paris-Nice, you should be able to succeed in most other races. I'm happy that I was able to prove myself today and finish.”
With his stage win, Kooij took the leader's jersey for the 4 Jours de Dunkerque. "We'll see what the next few days will bring. The time trial will be the deciding factor, and I'm afraid I'll lose some time there. After the time trial, we will see which of our riders is best positioned in the general classification. Tomorrow's stage will be challenging again. The final is tricky, but there is a chance that I can sprint again.”
Kooij took his second victory of the season. He also won a stage at Paris-Nice. Team Jumbo-Visma's tally now stands at 25.
Photo: François LO PRESTI Région Hauts de France