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Visma's Kooij wins Giro stage on Napoli seafront

Olav Kooij celebrates as he crosses the finish line in Naples (Luca Bettini)
Olav Kooij celebrates as he crosses the finish line in Naples (Luca Bettini)

Dutch sprinter Olav Kooij won a mass sprint in Naples to take stage nine of the Giro d'Italia on Sunday after a languid 214km run from the Apennines.

With the Vesuvius volcano in the background, the 22-year-old Kooij took his first grand tour stage win by a razor's edge ambushing Lidl-Trek rider Jonathan Milan on the line with a bike throw.

The peloton caught breakaway rider Jhonatan Narvaez of Ineos on the last stretch of the Mappatella Beach sprint, 50m from the line, after he had burst out of the pack on the Monte di Procida climb into town.

Kooij said his Visma team had been on a run of bad luck including crashes that sidelined big guns Jonas Vingegaard and Wout van Aert.

"This is what we have been looking forward to. We had to fight for it because it was tough, a tough finale."

The stage would likely have been won by Narvaez had it not been for the race leader Tadej Pogacar, who spearheaded the hunt from 150m out to place teammate Juan Sebastian Molano in the sprint, where he came third.

The win lifted Kooij to third on 115pts in the sprint points rankings led by Milan on 174. Kaden Groves is second on 116, with Tim Merlier fourth on 100 and Andrea Pietrobon fifth on 68.

The fast men should also be in the headlines on the 11th and 12th stages, which are completely flat.

Pogacar still leads the Giro overall standings by two minutes and 40 seconds from Dani Martinez and is 2min 58sec ahead of Geraint Thomas in third.

The Team UAE leader once again showed a cavalier attitude to energy conservation for the 21-day long road to Rome, aiding as lead-out man in the sprint, after taking three stage wins over the first week.

Sunday's stage left Avezzano in the Apennines for a 75-kilometre downhill until the peloton caught sight of the west coast, signalling the turn toward Naples.

Ahead of the race, Thomas warned of bumpy roads, only to fall coming out of a roundabout 60km from the finish. He was unhurt but lost 50 seconds to the pack and had to make an energy-draining effort to catch up.

Monday is a rest day. On Tuesday the peloton ride from Pompei to the Bocca della Selva summit after an ascent of 17.9km with an average gradient of 5.6 per cent.

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