Nicolas Roche's Giro d'Italia Diary: Belfast fans are just unbelievable
Ahead of last night's opening team time trial the roads were closed to traffic for two hours so that the teams could get a chance to check out the course.
With three of the younger guys on the team never having ridden a team time trial, my Tinkoff-Saxo team spent a lot of time this morning going through the basics and talking about how we were going to manage the more technical aspects of the course.
We did two full laps of the course before heading back to the hotel where, after a bit of a debriefing in the lobby, we had lunch, packed our bags for the stage and tried to relax before heading to the start.
A lot of riders don't like team time trials but I actually love them. They're as tough as hell but I just love the excitement and the tension of it all and it's probably the most exciting event for me.
Riding a team time trial is definitely a very intense experience, both mentally and physically. As well as trying to set the fastest time on the day, you also have to manage the whole team's efforts so you get the best out of everybody.
If you're way stronger than everyone else, you can't disrupt the team rhythm by riding harder as it just hurts your teammates even more.
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If you're not going so well, you still have to try and get every last joule of energy out of yourself so that the team can get the best time possible and with the time stopping on the fifth man across the line you can't afford to lose men mid stage.
For spectators, it's a great spectacle with nine guys riding really close, really fast, on all the latest equipment.
But the same things that make it appealing make it dangerous; the low profile handlebars, the disc wheels, the tiniest distance between each wheel.
After warming up in front of the team bus at the start area in the Titanic Quarter, my Tinkoff-Saxo team were the third team to start this evening's stage, rolling down the start ramp at exactly six o'clock.
It was hard to tell how well we were going because we had a strong tail wind on the way out and a strong headwind on the way back in to the finish and the last 3km were a bit dodgy with all the corners in the rain.
We had worked a lot on the climb to Stormont this morning and had planned for me to do a long turn on the front leading into the climb and then for my Aussie teammate Michael Rogers to take over on the hill itself. He did a great job up the climb, riding on the front all the way to the top at a steady pace that meant we were all on the limit but not over it.
By the time we got to the last corner we knew we weren't going to win the stage so it was very important to try and get to the line as quick as possible, so I led the team into the corner and then the faster finishers took over at the front.
We did a pretty good time, finishing 25 seconds behind stage winners Orica GreenEdge for fourth place on the stage, one place ahead of Philip (Deignan)'s Sky team.
The crowds today were unbelievable, three or four deep in places. On the way back to the bus there were so many people waiting outside that, after getting changed, I probably spent a half and hour signing a few autographs and posing for photos.
The Giro is not going to be coming here for a long time again and everyone had waited all day in the bad weather so it was only fair I made a bit of an effort.
I was feeling pretty happy with myself as I was stepped back onto the team bus to go to the hotel, only for one of the fans to tell me that my cousin Dan had crashed.
It looks like he has a broken collarbone and his Giro is over. Cycling is a cruel sport at the best of times but Dan has had a really unlucky spell in the last few weeks.
He crashed on the last corner, with 200m to go, at Liege-Bastogne-Liege a couple of weeks ago, just as it looked like he was going to win the race for the second year in a row, and now this. Like myself and Philip Deignan, as an Irish rider Dan has been waiting for the opportunity to ride this Giro for a lifetime. It's horrible news. I feel so sorry for him.
Up to date information on public road closures can be found at trafficwatchni.com/giro.
RESULTS AFTER DAY ONE
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97th staging of the event
During its three days in Ireland, cyclists will travel 426.7km.
Over the three weeks, they will cycle almost 3,450km.
A potential audience of 775 million people is expected across 174 countries.
Expected to generate £2.5m for the economy, with some £10m-worth of international media coverage.