Olav Kooij edges out sprint rivals on stage 9 – Giro d’Italia

Giro d’Italia 2024

Stage 9

Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike) broke the heart of Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) in the finale 150 metres of stage 9 at the Giro d’Italia, producing a stunning sprint to both catch the Ecuadorian who attacked 7km from the line and outlast Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek) for the win in Naples.

Narváez made his move on the final hill of the day, forcing the peloton into a frantic chase back down to the city which was led by Lidl-Trek and UAE Team Emirates. There were shades of the 2012 Tour de France where Bradley Wiggins led out Mark Cavendish in the yellow jersey as race leader Tadej Pogačar got on the front in the final kilometre to try and bring back Narváez for his fast man Juan Sebastian Molano.

Milan launched from the final leadout of Simone Consonni but the yellow and black jersey of Kooij was close behind and pipped him at the line. Molano was third at the line after the work of Pogačar.

This is the biggest win of Kooij’s career on Grand Tour debut at the Giro after he struggled with knee pain after crashing during the Giro’s opening weekend, bringing Visma-Lease a Bike men their first win since Dwars door Vlaanderen in March.

“This is what we were looking for, to get a stage win. The first two [stages] didn’t go perfectly and today we had to fight for it because it was a really tough finale,” said a delighted Kooij. “The team really committed, although we weren’t sure before because of the guys I was able to get in position and take the win.”

Kooij is one of the six Visma riders left at the Giro after Robert Gesink and Christophe Laporte had to abandon due to sustaining injuries in crashes. But as the best teams always do, they found a way to get him to the line.

“We knew we had to improvise a bit, especially in the last kilometre. Normally with Christophe, we had almost a certainty to get me in position but today we had to just not stick to one plan but see how the race evolved and do what was necessary.”

Kooij has been one of the top young sprinters in the peloton since turning pro with Visma in 2021, and he has already racked up 33 wins at just 22 years old but today was the best of all.

Kooij leads the sprinters towards the finish line.

“This was the step I was looking for, at least the win,” Kooij said. “I was looking forward to my first grand tour and after some wins, I think this one is one I was really dreaming of.”

The second-longest stage of the 2024 Giro d’Italia set off from Avezzano with the traditional Italian breakaway forming at the front. Polti-Kometa were the team on show today as Andrea Pietrobon and Mirco Maestri decided they would fly the flag in the break.

No one would join them in their efforts, leaving the peloton in a calm state for the next 50 kilometres as the race headed south, but Alpecin-Deceuninck did make their ambitions known by committing a rider to manage the time gap.

This would remain largely the status quo for the first 150km of the whole stage, aside from a few unusual attacks over the first unclassified climb of the day which didn’t amount to anything significant.

The race found life at the first of three intermediate sprint points on the day into Mondragone with Tim Merlier (Soudal-QuickStep) taking the maximum haul after admitting pre-stage that the punchy finale would likely be too difficult after he hurt himself in a crash during the stage 7 time trial.

Alpecin-Deceuninck returned to their full strength at the head of the peloton with the whole eight-man roster in a line leading the peloton to the Intergiro sprint at Giugliano in Campania. Bad Giro d’Italia luck would continue for Geraint Thomas just before making it as he went down in a crash with Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) at a roundabout. But he was quickly back in the peloton, uninjured.

Racing exploded in the final 40km as expected with the set of punchy hills around Naples starting at the Monte di Procida, where Alpecin again put the hammer down, alongside GC teams upping the pace to keep their leaders safe.

Teammates Andrea Pietrobon and Mirco Maestri in the breakaway.

This would put the likes of Merlier, Fabio Jakobsen and Tobias Lund Andresen (both DSM-Firmenich PostNL) out the back. Alpecin were aided in the pressure application by Groupama-FDJ until Laurence Pithie had an untimely mechanical.

Then with 27km to go, Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-QuickStep) decided he wasn’t happy with the pace and launched off the front. He was joined by the likes of Ewan Costiou (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) in a tandem move after dropping a bigger group that had latched onto his move.

The panache of the two-time World Champion was front and centre again at the Giro until the final uncategorised climb of the day. He had dropped Costiou and gone solo, but the Lidl-Trek-led peloton was melting his advantage away in the Naples sunshine.

It wasn’t the charging peloton that mowed him down first, but a charging attack from Narváez who looked resplendent in his Ecuadorian national champion’s jersey, as he set off in pursuit of solo glory.

His gap was growing on the downhill run to the city, aided by leadout trains behind not being at full strength and the likes of Lidl-Trek and Jayco AlUla not wanting to waste all their resources too early.

This is when UAE Team Emirates showed their ambition and race leader Pogačar decided he was going to commit himself to the efforts of Molano after the whole team had worked for his GC ambitions in the first week.

It was fitting that it was the man who defeated him on the Giro’s opening stage that he put in a huge pull to try and catch, perhaps proving to be the difference when Milan and Kooij launched their final sprints to the line and caught the Ecuadorian just metres from a second victory at the 2024 Giro.

Julian Alaphilippe launches an attack.

After a hectic nine days of racing the peloton enjoys a well earned rest tomorrow. The second week of the Giro gets off to a strong start with a race through the southern Apennines on Tuesday. The 10th stage travels from Pompeï to the Bocca della Selva in the mountains above Cusano Mutri. The route is 142 kilometres long, while the finish climb adds up to 17.9 kilometres.

The first 45 kilometres are as good as flat. The route continues as a false flat after San Felice a Cancello and following another flat section the first climb begins in Montesarchio. It’s 4.7 kilometres long and averaging 6%, but it really comes down to a section halfway, which kicks up at double digit gradients for about 1 kilometre.

The route descends to the base of the first KOM climb of the day. The Camposauro throws in 6.1 kilometres at 7.8%, while it ramps up to 13%.

There are still 57 kilometres remaining at the summit of the Camposauro. Following a descent to Solopaca and the crossing of the Calore River the route is back at 60 metres above sea level. The finish is situated at almost 1,400 metres and this section runs mostly uphill at shallow gradients.

The finish climb kicks in 3 kilometres after moving through Cusano Mutri. The Bocca della Selva opens with 6 kilometres at 6% before a virtually flat section makes way for an undulating phase. The last 6 kilometres add an average gradient of 7.2% to the mix. The total finishing ascent is 17.9 kilometres long and averaging 5.6%.

The Bocca della Selva was included twice in the Giro d’Italia – in 2016 and 2021 -, but it never before served as a finish.

The second and third intermediate sprint come with 3, 2 and 1 seconds, while the first three riders on the line gain 10, 6 and 4 seconds.

Stage 9 result:

1. Olav Kooij (Ned) Visma-Lease a Bike, in 4:44:22
2. Jonathan Milan (Ita) Lidl-Trek
3. Juan Sebastián Molano (Col) UAE Team Emirates
4. Alberto Dainese (Ita) Tudor Pro Cycling
5. Danny van Poppel (Ned) Bora-Hansgrohe
6. Madis Mihkels (Est) Intermarché-Wanty
7. Kaden Groves (Aus) Alpecin-Deceuninck
8. Andrea Vendrame (Ita) Decathlon-AG2R La Mondiale
9. Davide Ballerini (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan
10. Max Kanter (Ger) Astana Qazaqstan, all at same time

General Classification:

1. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, in 28:14:42
2. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Bora-Hansgrohe, +2:40
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, +2:58
4. Ben O’Connor (Aus) Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale, +3:39
5. Cian Uijtdebroeks (Bel) Visma-Lease a Bike, +4:02
6. Antonio Tiberi (Ita) Bahrain Victorious, +4:23
7. Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita) Astana Qazaqstan, +5:15
8. Einer Rubio (Col) Movistar, +5:28
9. Thymen Arensman (Ned) Ineos Grenadiers, +5:30
10. Jan Hirt (Cze) Soudal Quick-Step, +5:53

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