With Wout van Aert set to make his Giro d’Italia debut this May, he and his Visma-Lease a Bike team will be looking at ways to find a balance between the Belgian star battling for his own success and working for fellow debutant Olav Kooij in the sprints.
The pair worked well together at last season’s Tour of Britain, their first stage race together, as Van Aert led out Kooij for four stage wins before taking one of his own on the way to the overall victory.
At the Giro, he’ll be hunting stages for himself, too, while also working on delivering wins to 22-year-old Kooij as new signing Cian Uijtdebroeks takes on the GC challenge. Van Aert said that he sees “a lot of interesting stages” on the Giro route and potential for him and Kooij to rack up wins during their time in Italy.
“There are a lot of interesting stages. We have Olav for the bunch sprints and myself if it gets a bit trickier. That way we will have a lot of chances to win stages,” Van Aert told In De Leiderstrui.
“If Olav survives a climb and we can sprint with him, then our chances of winning will be higher, than if we were sprinting with me in a smaller group. As long as we win as a team, it doesn’t matter with whom. The better Olav climbs, the better that will be for the team. We start the Giro with a good plan, but a good Olav would be an advantage.”
Van Aert said that he won’t be selfish during the Giro, noting that it’s an ethos of Visma-Lease a Bike to sacrifice for others, even if, as a superstar, you might be well within your rights to expect otherwise.
“You have two things in this team: you never ride a race where you can think it’s all about you. I don’t want that at all. And two: in this team, you never ride a Grand Tour with a mediocre team. There are always strong men, who can take you to the final and control the race. And so, it’s an honour for me and Olav both to be leaders of such a team.
“We tried [working together] in the Tour of Britain and that went pretty well. The Giro will be a completely different level, but on the days we ride for Olav, the whole team will help him. The same goes for the stages that will suit me.
“I don’t know if the Tour of Britain was a try-out for the team. I myself had been talking about the Giro in 2024 for some time, but everything came together in the various meetings.”
For his part, Kooij acknowledged that, while Van Aert is no stranger to success in flat sprints himself, the Belgian hasn’t targeted them so much in the past year or so. He said that…