Martin, whose uncle Stephen Roche won the race in 1987, will be his Garmin-SHARP team’s joint leader alongside Canadian Ryder Hesjedal for the next three weeks and said he is gunning to get “the best result possible”.
“It’s all about this race,” he said yesterday. “I am not thinking beyond June 1. I am here to lead the team, whether that means stages or General Classification, we don’t know yet. It’s been the goal for my season to do this Giro and we’re here to do the best possible result.”
Indeed, with some of the sport’s top riders like Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali deciding to concentrate on the Tour de France in July, and Team Sky’soriginal Giro team leader, Richie Porte, falling ill, the list of potential winners has become more select – with Martin and fellow Irishman Nicolas Roche mentioned as possible dark horses. And the former wasn’t playing down expectations when asked has he dared to dream of getting on the podium, or even winning the race.
“Dream of what? It’s not really a dream,” he said rather matter of fact. “I watched Hesjedal win the Giro two years ago and I know it’s possible but a lot can happen in three weeks; you can get sick or crash but I’ll be doing my best every day and not think of the final podium.
“We’ll go to try and win a stage and complete my collection of stage wins in Grand Tours (he has won stages of the Tour and the Vuelta previously). We’ve got a really strong team and of course I’m thinking of the General Classification but I’m not going to ride negatively.”
But before thoughts of pink are entertained, a stage win is his immediate goal.
“I’d really like to be able to get up in the GC but to win a stage would make the race a big success. A top 10 finish in a Grand Tour is the one thing that’s missing from my palmaras (rider’s CV). I saw at the Tour de France last year I had the capacity to achieve that and hopefully this Giro will be where that happens.
“How far into that top 10 I can go I’m not really sure because it depends on the other guys and I’m not even sure who those other guys are! We’ll have to wait and see for the start line in Belfast and then take it day by day. It’s going to be an exciting month for sure.”
Today’s opening stage is a 21.7 kilometre team trial on some long flat roads – in fact there are only 35 metres of climbing in total – and for a rider as diminutive as Martin, it’s not exactly his or his team’s strongest discipline.
The goal for them today will be to try and push for a top five finish – and not cede too much time to some of the more traditional team time-trial specialists like Orica GreenEdge and OmegaPharma Quick Step or BMC.
The latter team are one of the strongest in the race and with former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans in their ranks, he’ll be one of the main men to watch.
Evans is among a handful of former Grand Tour winners in Belfast today for the race’s first venture here. Others include Michele Scarponi (Astana, 2011 Giro), Ivan Basso (Cannondale, 2006, 2010 Giri), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp, 2012 Giro), and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida, 2004 Giro).
Martin knows he’s an underdog – but that’s a position he has been in plenty times the before, and one where he’s most dangerous.
Today’s stage gets underway at 5.45pm.