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Giro d’Italia: Visma-Lease a Bike target stage wins with Olav Kooij, Cian Uijtdebroeks for GC

Defending champions Visma-Lease a Bike will target stage wins at the upcoming Giro d’Italia, with Olav Kooij aiming for the sprint stages, whilst Cian Uijtdebroeks will make a tentative goal of the general classification.

The Dutch team revealed their line-up for the Italian Grand Tour on Wednesday, largely confirming the squad they have been shaping throughout the spring. Wout van Aert has been replaced by Christophe Laporte, and Wilco Kelderman has been sidelined. The main change is that former mountains classification winner Koen Bouwman is out through illness, replaced by Tim van Dijke.

Kooij and Uijtdebroeks will be joined by Robert Gesink, Edoardo Affini, Attila Valter and Jan Tratnik. The shape and goals of the team are different from the start of the year, and a long way away from the team that won this race through Primož Roglič last May.

“We are approaching this Giro differently than in previous years,” said sports director Marc Reef in a release from the team.

“This time, we don’t have to fight for every meter every day with the GC in mind. It’s different from the last six Grand Tours we did. Then we always started with the GC as our main goal.”

Instead of the GC, or varied stage hunting with Van Aert, the focus will now be centered on the sprint chances for Olav Kooij, who is emerging as one of the strongest sprinters in the bunch.

“Our main objective is to win stages,” Reef added. “We want to achieve that mainly in the flat sprints with Olav. We will also not hide in the stages where a breakaway has a good chance of succeeding.”

Christophe Laporte is also an option to chase success in some of the punchier stages.

“We will be satisfied if we win more than one stage. With a team that can win on several fronts, we will start with confidence,” Reef said.

Read more: Giro d’Italia 2024: Essential race preview

Visma-Lease a Bike will start as the defending maglia rosa champions but are not expecting to repeat that, with their GC rider Cian Uijtdebroeks going into the race with more conservative goals.

Though Uijtdebroeks finished eighth in the Vuelta a España in 2023, the team say his Giro will be about learning and developing.

“Cian can take his chance on the GC,” Reef said. “The main thing is to learn. We will see what he can do in the coming weeks. We are confident. We have been working together for a few months now, and we like it very much. We know more and more what we can get from each other.”

Uijtdebroeks has had a middling year so far, racing three stage races in the run-up to the Giro – he finished fifth overall in O Gran Camiño and seventh at Tirreno-Adriatico, won by Jonas Vingegaard, but did not finish the Volta a Catalunya , and hasn’t raced since.

Despite the tumultuous preparation for the Giro, which has seen several of their star riders sidelined and Uijtdebroeks’ ambitions shrink somewhat, Reef reinforced his confidence in the team Visma-Lease a Bike are taking to Italy.

“Besides that, we have been able to work towards the start of the Giro in perfect conditions over the past few weeks,” Reef said. “The training camps in Tenerife and Denia were perfect. Jan Tratnik, Robert Gesink and Tim van Dijke were able to put the finishing touches to their form at the Tour de Romandie. That makes us ready.”

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 racing hub.