Giro d'Italia: Belfast buzz will live long in memory of riders, says Martin
Dan Martin is feeling right at home as the Giro d'Italia gets set to hit the streets and roads of Ulster.
Martin is the nephew of Ireland's 1987 Tour de France winner Stephen Roche and is relishing the opportunity of starting one of the Grand Tours on home soil.
And the 27-year-old admits he has never seen as much enthusiasm for a race as that which he has experienced in Belfast.
"It's surreal. Even the staff in the hotel we're staying in are wearing pink," said Martin, who won a stage of last year's Tour de France in which Chris Froome made it successive victories for Britain, following on from Sir Bradley Wiggins inaugural GB triumph in 2012.
"Personally, this is the biggest buzz I have ever experienced at the start of a Grand Tour," said Martin.
"Most of the riders have never been to Northern Ireland before and the feeling is one of excitement. Obviously there are nerves but no different than you would get before any big race.
"Being here makes this race very special, particularly for the likes of myself.
"The support along the route will be enthusiastic – I'm sure the crowds will be huge – and will be something all the riders will remember for many years to come.
"No doubt there will be a wall of noise when we're racing through the streets of Belfast.
"Obviously the wind and possibly rain could be important factors. Hopefully we can shed the stereotype that it always rains in Ireland.
"It will be a testing first few days. It's going to be tough.
"A big part of it will be staying out of trouble and just taking it day by day.
"I know a fair bit about the route and hopefully I can use that to my advantage.
"It would be a dream to win a stage of a Grand Tour in Ireland," added the Garmin-Sharp rider.
And Martin is certain that, although the Giro will only be in Ulster for three days, it will make a major impact in the months and years ahead.
"Having the Giro here is absolutely huge," he said.
"This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase Ireland, to let people see the country at its very best.
"The most important thing is that the Giro will introduce more people to cycling, particularly kids.
"Maybe we will see a velodrome being built as a result."
Martin has cycling in his genes. His father is Neil Martin, a former professional road racer, while his mother Maria is the sister of the legendary Stephen Roche, whose son Nicolas – Martin's cousin – is also in the Giro line-up.
The action starts in Belfast tomorrow, takes in the Antrim Coast on Saturday and leaves Armagh for Dublin on Sunday, finishing in Trieste on June 1 after a gruelling 3,445km.
And Martin couldn't be happier that the journey starts close to home.