Kooij faces the Giro without trusted lead-out: "Understandable choice for Van Aert and Affini, but it's a bitter pill for us" Cycling

Kooij faces the Giro without trusted lead-out: "Understandable choice for Van Aert and Affini, but it's a bitter pill for us"

Kooij faces the Giro without trusted lead-out: "Understandable choice for Van Aert and Affini, but it's a bitter pill for us"

This Sunday, it's all in for his buddy and leader Olav Kooij at Gent-Wevelgem, but after that, the partnership with the Dutch sprinting sensation will pause for a while.Mick - along with his brother Tim - van Dijke is making waves at Visma | Lease a Bike, yet they're not quite at the point where they'll also accompany Kooij to the Giro d'Italia. In an interview with IDLProCycling.com, Mick shared his honest, yet thoughtful, perspectives on a few topics.

Having just celebrated their 24th birthday, the Van Dijke brothers are in their third season with Visma | Lease a Bike's WorldTour squad, having advanced from the development team alongside Kooij. Since their debut in 2022, they've had their moments in the spotlight but have largely served in supporting roles; for GC contenders and, notably, for Kooij. Starting with lead-outs in smaller races like the Tour of Hungary and Circuit Cycliste Sarthe, they quickly graduated to major events like the Renewi Tour, this year's UAE Tour, and Paris-Nice. Mick van Dijke also took part in Milan-San Remo, though his brother Tim was forced to withdraw due to a crash.

Van Dijke brothers enjoyed Paris-Nice with Kooij

"The last few weeks have been amazing," the twin half shared with a smile during our chat. "I've been riding in support of Olav since our days in the U23s, back with the development squad. Back then, I was always the last man in the sprint train, but things have shifted a bit. At the pro level, everything's faster, requiring tighter coordination. We've been focusing on this for the last few weeks and months, and the UAE Tour served as an initial test run. It was a tough race, but we managed to nab a stage win."

In March, Kooij and his lead-out team headed to France. "Paris-Nice was the main goal, where we especially did a great job in the first stage. Everything fell into place there, essentially a textbook sprint," Van Dijke reflects on one of Kooij's two stage wins in Paris-Nice. "We're happy to help Olav, even though executing a textbook lead-out is really tough these days. Tim and I always try to see where he is and whether we can let him move forward or place him in another train so that he gets a lead-out from another favorite."

Mick van Dijke understands the tough decisions Visma | Lease a Bike must make

On Sunday, Van Dijke will try one more time to set up Kooij, although it will be a challenging task in Gent-Wevelgem given the course and weather forecast. Until summer, Kooij and the Van Dijkes will then be temporarily separated. Mick finds this logical, though also disappointing. "Tim and I know we're in a team where everyone is incredibly good. But it's a shame when you've done everything with Olav from the start. Despite understanding the choice of Wout van Aert and Edoardo Affini for the Giro d'Italia very well since both are exceptionally strong, it's still a really bitter pill for Tim and me."

Read more below the photo!

Kooij faces the Giro without trusted lead-out: "Understandable choice for Van Aert and Affini, but it's a bitter pill for us"

"Ultimately, it's a tough world, and our team is the best in the world, with the best riders," the Dutchman continues. "You want to perform as well as possible, so you field the best guys. Period. At this point, Wout can lead out a sprint better than Tim or I can. It won't make Olav any worse, but it's important to race as much as possible together. Executing a good lead-out is really about details and making tough decisions quickly. Ultimately, having a train that's well-matched and accustomed to each other is beneficial."

When will the Van Dijke brothers ride their first grand tour?

So far, Van Dijke hasn't participated in a grand tour, and the likelihood of that happening in 2024 isn't particularly high. "This year, I doubt I'll be riding a grand tour, but of course, we'd like to in the future. It also makes you a better rider. I've just turned 24, so I'm still a young guy. But it's about time to tackle a grand tour, for my development."

And yet, why couldn't Van Dijke, for example, join the team for the Vuelta a España, to lead out sprints for Wout van Aert? "Last year, I did my first lead-out for Wout in the Tour of Switzerland, and it worked well with him. It's up to me to prove myself in big races, and that's going well, as you can see from Paris-Nice. Beyond the sprint, you'll see that Tim and I can also do our part in the hills and mountains for the guys. The team recognizes this, and I trust that it will be rewarded."

For now, it's a waiting game, with races like the Volta Limburg Classic and the Tour of Romandy on Van Dijke's schedule after Gent-Wevelgem. They'll likely reunite with Kooij in the summer. "Olav, Tim, and I spend a lot of time together and have become good friends. But until the National Championships, our program is pretty set. We'll see what happens after that. I'm doing my best, and so far, it's going really well. Paris-Nice was an incredibly high point, great to see. Tim and I are making our progress, and I think it shows. Not everyone is a Mathieu van der Poel or Wout van Aert. We're just trying our best."

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