Olav Kooij has made a perfect start to the season on Sunday. In the Clásica de Almería, the 22-year-old Dutchman finished off his teammates’ preparations in the sprint. It was the first victory of the new season for Team Visma | Lease a Bike.
In the south of Spain, the Clásica de Almería was a one-day race for the sprinters. Chasing the early breakaway, Team Visma | Lease a Bike controlled the peloton with the other sprinter teams. New recruit Julien Vermote rode often at the front of the peloton in the service of leader Kooij. In the winding finish town of Roquetas de Mar, the yellow and black sprint train was somewhat disrupted. After an ultimate move by lead-out rider Wout van Aert, Kooij set up his sprint and completed it successfully, although he doubted that he had won.
“At the finish line, I was initially a bit too confident, maybe”, Kooij said with a smile. “I looked to my left and saw Matteo Moschetti next to me. In retrospect, I should have looked earlier to see if there was a threat, but mistakes like that are part of a season opener. Fortunately, there were no consequences. If I sprint to the line in the next few races, I will avoid such situations.”
“It’s nice to start the season with a win. A first race like this always takes some getting used to. The race rhythm is missing, and you notice it. It was also challenging to stay together because of all the roundabouts. I decided to try the left side, which cost me a lot of energy. Luckily, Wout came at the perfect moment to get me into the sprint. I’m happy to have finished it off because the team rode very strongly. Julien was a great asset to the team today. What he did in the chase was excellent.”
Lead-out Van Aert, who will race the Clásica Jaén on Monday, also made a good impression in his first road race of the year. “It wasn’t a perfect sprint, but we expected a chaotic finish. I briefly lost my teammates in the final stages. Luckily, I could move up in time to put Olav in a good position.”