The Australian criterium champion was going to be one of the favourites if the race came down to a bunch sprint and that was on the cards after the final rider from the early breakaway was swept up with 12 kilometres remaining on the 187km stage to Otoča, Croatia.
A tight and technical finishing circuit made for a hectic finale as the squad powered to the front of the pack with three kilometres to go. Callum Scotson was the last man to swing off inside the final kilometre, leaving Groves to surf the wheels ahead of the fast downhill run to the line.
The 22-year-old battled hard for position and charged through the gaps as the sprint opened up, but there was no denying Kooij, who went one better than yesterday to take the Stage 2 victory.
“It was a pretty solid day today, actually," said Groves. "An undulating course and we knew going into it would be good for me, we went in with a plan to have a bunch sprint today and we did that. With about 50 kilometres to go we started with the main climb of the day and we got over that no problem, the boys looked after me.
"In the final, it was pretty straightforward after we hit the main road with around three kilometres to go. We did a really good job, Tsgabu, Andrey, Heppy and Scotson hit the front of the bunch and brought me all the way into the final kilometre.
"I cost myself a better result today by hesitating and when I went it was just too late. But it gives me some motivation for later in the week, the form is good and there’s plenty more stages here and a chance for Yatesy tomorrow.”
Groves 2021 season has been dogged by injuries, but he claimed his first professional win in Europe recently at the Tour of Slovakia in the prologue, showing that he's got the power if he and his Team BikeExchange squad can work out the positioning in the sprints.