Giro d'Italia stage 9: Olav Kooij snatches victory in thrilling Naples finale

Jhonatan Narváez' late attack foiled by Tadej Pogačar's lead-out, before Kooij pips Jonathan Milan for the win

Clock15:14, Sunday 12th May 2024
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© Getty Images

Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike) clinched the first Grand Tour victory of his career in a thrilling finale to stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia in Naples.

The sprinters only caught late attacker Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) inside the final 50 metres, and only did so thanks to huge lead-out pull from none other than the race leader, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).

Lidl-Trek had dominated the chase of Narváez and Simone Consonni had performed the final lead-out turn for their sprinter Jonathan Milan, but the stage 4 winner was pipped at the line by Kooij, with Pogačar’s sprinter Juan Sebastián Molano taking the final spot on the day’s podium.

“After quite some wins, this one is really one I was dreaming of,” said Kooij, who had racked up 32 wins in just over three years as a pro, but was made to wait for his Grand Tour debut.

The journey from Avezzano to Naples was the longest of the race so far, its 214 kilometres dwarfing the relatively short stages we’ve seen in the opening week. As has been the case on every potential sprint stage so far, the parcours was complicated by small climbs, in this case the category-4 Monte di Procida with 40km to go, followed by a series of uncategorised ramps that provided perfect launchpads for attackers.

Several key sprinters, including stage 3 winner Tim Merlier, were dropped on that bigger climb, and while the Belgian’s Soudal Quick-Step teammate Julian Alaphilippe went on the attack soon after, it was Narváez who almost stole the show with his move over the last kicker inside the final 10km.

Having matched and then out-sprinted Pogačar on the opening stage, the Ecuadorian champion punched out a seven-second solo advantage by the top of the climb, extended it to 12 on the descent, and looked to have pulled off another heist as he entered the home straight.

That was until Pogačar turned up, and the sight of the pink jersey doing a lead-out was yet more evidence of the Slovenian’s irrepressible desire to race at every opportunity, even if this time it was not in his own interests but those of his less heralded teammate Molano.

The Colombian could only manage third, but equally grateful to Pogačar will have been the other sprinters. Milan was the favourite, and his lead-out man Consonni performed the final pull as Narváez was swept back up, but it was the comparatively lone-ranging Kooij, whose lead-out man Christophe Laporte has already left the race, who came through with the final burst of speed.

“We knew we had to improvise a bit,” Kooij said. “Normally with Christophe we have almost the certainty to get in position but today we had to just not really stick too much to one plan but just see how the race unfolded. This was the step I was looking for.”

There was no change to he upper end of the general classification, with Pogačar continuing to lead the race by 2:40 over Dani Martínez (Bora-Hansgrohe), while Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) survived a minor crash to retain third place at 2:58.

A two-up teammate breakaway

With 214km ahead of them, and a peloton full not only of pure sprinters but also versatile sprinters, there was precious little faith in a breakaway success, and precious little appetite to form the day’s escape. That fell to just one team, Polti-Kometa, who fired both Mirco Maestri and Andre Pietrobon up the road for a two-up teammate adventure out front.

Despite the unthreatening nature of a two-man break, the peloton did not take any chances and only afforded them a modest advantage of around two minutes at first, before allowing it to grow to 3:30 after an hour of racing. That figure did then dip due to a bizarre flurry attacks in the peloton, but things soon settled down once more and the race proceeded in calm fashion for much of the day.

In the peloton, Alpecin-Deceuninck were the team doing the lion’s share of the controlling.

Heading into the final 100km, the gap started to come down, dropping to less than two minutes by the first intermediate sprint t Mondragone with just over 80km to go, where Pietrobon rolled over in first place ahead of his teammate. With points available in the ciclamino jersey standings, there was a fierce fight in the peloton, with Alpecin-Deceuninck and Lidl-Trek both firing up dedicated three-man lead-out trains. Jonathan Milan’s Lidl team had pole position, but were then replaced by Karen Groves’ Alpecin, although they were both usurped by the Tim Merlier, with Milan just hanging on for second from that group ahead of Olav Kooij (Visma-Lease a Bike).

Several kilometres further down the road, Thomas hit the deck, appearing to ride into Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), who crashed through a roundabout with 60km to go. The German was in a bit of pain but Thomas calmly remounted before having three teammates close the 50-second gap to the bunch.

Just as Thomas was coming back, the bunch were contesting the Intergiro sprint at Lago Patria, with Maestri having taken maximum points in the two-man break. This time, Alpecin were alone in leading it out, as Milan chose not to contest, and this time there was a reward as Groves held off Merlier thanks to a a bike throw.

The hills shake up the finale

There was a brief attack through the Intergiro sprint but it was quickly shut down and the next piece of action would come on the day’s only classified climb, the Monte di Procida (4.1km at 3.8%) with 40km to go. The Polti duo managed to defend their one-minute lead but the pace in the peloton was such that some sprinters were dropped, Fabio Jakobsen the first to go, followed surprisingly by his more versatile teammate Tobias Lund Andersen. Merlier was the next to drop, and his wave to the camera showed he had no intention of fighting to get back in, and had instead focused solely on the intermediate sprints.

There was also an unintentional victim in Laurence Pithie (Groupama-FDJ), who was forced into a frantic chase on the descent. Having claimed the maximum KOM points at the top of the climb, Pietrobon was first across the line at the bonus sprint at the bottom, with no points for the ciclamino standings and no fight from the GC riders for the final bonus second.

There were two uncategorised climbs in the final 20km but Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal Quick-Step) didn’t want to wait until then and, with Merlier out of the equation, the Frenchman attacked on a small kicker. He was marked by Alpecin’s Nicola Conci and then joined in turn by the duo of Kevin Vermaerke (DSM) and Lewis Askey (Groupama-FDJ), and then the solo figure of Ewen Costiou (Arkéa-B&B Hotels).

On the first of those bigger uncategorised climbs with 20km to go, Alaphilippe, frustrated with Conci’s sandbagging, ripped it again, and only Costiou could follow, the pair managing to build a 30-second lead over the bunch.

On the next climb, with 10km to go, the two-time world champion hit it again and went solo, although the peloton was hot on the heels. After a period of flat, the climb kicked up again to its crest with 7km to go, and stage 1 winner Jhonatan Narváez (Ineos Grenadiers) took a flyer, breezing past Alaphilippe and out into the lead. More riders hit out after the Ecuadorian, as Lidl-Trek did their best to try and keep a lid on things.

Narváez crested the climb and started to dive down hill in the final 5km with a lead of seven seconds. Remarkably, that rose to 12 seconds by the time he’d hit the flat and Lidl-Trek had regathered themselves for the final run-in.

It was touch-and-go, and it looked like Narváez was heading for a sensational second victory of this Giro d’Italia until the pink jersey suddenly appeared on the front of the bunch and offered a huge pull down the home straight. Heartbreak for Narváez, who was swept up in the final 50km, as Consonni performed the final lead-out for Milan.

The Italian, though, wearing the ciclamino jersey as leader of the points classification, was unable to do anything as Kooij emerged and nudged ahead in the nick of time.

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

Race Results

1

nl flag

KOOIJ Olav

Team Visma | Lease a Bike

4H 44' 22"

2

it flag

MILAN Jonathan

Lidl-Trek

"

3

co flag

MOLANO Sebastian

UAE Team Emirates

"

4

it flag

DAINESE Alberto

Tudor Pro Cycling Team

"

5

nl flag

VAN POPPEL Danny

BORA-hansgrohe

"

6

ee flag

MIHKELS Madis

Intermarché-Wanty

"

7

au flag

GROVES Kaden

Alpecin-Deceuninck

"

8

it flag

VENDRAME Andrea

Decathlon AG2R La Mondiale Team

"

9

it flag

BALLERINI Davide

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

10

de flag

KANTER Max

Astana Qazaqstan Team

"

Provided by FirstCycling

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