Jumbo-Visma have accelerated Olav Kooij’s development by drafting the 19-year-old into their WorldTour team.
The Dutch rider was meant to transition from the Jumbo-Visma U23 team halfway through this year, but, with the racing scene at that level decimated by cancellations and uncertainty, the management have decided to make an immediate change.
Kooij will make his WorldTour debut next weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
“With Olav we propose a balanced talent development programme. Not only do we look at his race programme, but also, for example, at his preparation and his specific role in a race,” senior sport director Merijn Zeeman said in a press release issued on Thursday.
“Unfortunately, more and more races are dropped from our development team programme and at the same time more space is created in the pro programme by the temporary loss of riders. This creates a situation for Olav in which a transfer is the best contribution to his training and development.”
Kooij joined the Jumbo-Visma team at the start of 2020 and made an immediate impact. Despite a sporadic campaign that was affected by COVID-19 race cancellations, the 19-year-old won six times. He was fifth at the European Continental Championships U23 road race but also won the opening stage of Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali in August when he beat a number of WorldTour sprinters to the line.
In recent weeks Jumbo-Visma have been rocked by injuries and riders unable to race. Dylan Groenewegen is still serving a ban for his role in a crash that injured Fabio Jakobsen last year, while Tom Dumoulin has taken an indefinite leave from the sport for personal reasons.
Earlier this week it was revealed that Mike Teunissen – who, like Dumoulin was initially listed for the Tour de France – would miss most of the spring due to injuries he sustained in a training crash in Tenerife.
For Kooij, the move to the WorldTour represents a significant shift his programme, but the young rider believes he can rise to the challenge and balance some remaining U23 races with his chance in WorldTour races.
“In the professional races I can learn a lot. I take all that experience with me. By taking this step now I am more assured of riding races and that is an important part of my development,” he said.
“I won’t see my teammates from the Development Team as much now, but I will still see them at training camps and races with the mixed team. I also hope to see them again in the World Tour team soon.”
According to Head of Development at Jumbo-Visma, Robbert de Groot, Kooij is ready for the move to the WorldTour team.
“Olav has developed in a stormy way in recent months. Therefore this is a responsible and logical next step. As a development team, we are very proud and happy about that.”