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Young Dutch cyclist Kooij triumphs in Paris-nice sprint

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In a thrilling finish to the fifth stage of the Paris-Nice race, young and talented Dutch cyclist Olav Kooij achieved his first significant victory in a sprint, while Tadej Pogacar of Team UAE retained his overall lead on Thursday.

Kooij, a 21-year-old powerhouse representing Jumbo-Visma team, left behind experienced sprinters Mads Pedersen of Trek-Segafredo and Tim Merlier of Soudal-Quick Step, as they approached the finish line in Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux. Kooij had finished second to Pedersen at the end of the second stage but was able to overtake him this time.

Speaking to Eurosport at the finish line, Kooij said, “This is definitely the nicest victory so far, I won a few races last year.” Clearly thrilled with his performance, the young rider added, “Coming close and coming second is not bad but the victories are the ones that count.”

The 212.4km stage saw a languid pace, with the pack of 148 enjoying the sunny weather. Pogacar also seemed to be in a relaxed mood, saying, “I enjoyed the first day in yellow. Really nice day and no stress.” However, the Slovenian rider did manage to gain two seconds in an intermediate sprint for bonus seconds, finishing third.

In an exciting sprint with 57km to go, Frenchman David Gaudu of Groupama, who is currently in second place overall, overtook Pogacar to claim six seconds and reduce the overall lead to just six seconds.

Overall, it was a great day for Kooij and his team, as they celebrated his maiden victory in style.

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