The Garmin-SHARP rider came down heavily midway through the 21.7km team time-trial after he appeared to lose balance on a manhole cover while travelling at over 50kph.
A slight rain shower prior to the start made conditions treacherous on a course that featured a number of tricky corners, but it was on a straight stretch where Martin came a cropper.
When he came down, he was fifth in the Garmin-SHARP line and with four teammates immediately behind, three of those came down hard, though they did remount and limp on, finishing dead last.
Their other big General Classification rider, Ryder Hesjedal, will now carry the team’s hopes, though he starts today’s second stage almost three and a half minutes down on stage winners Orica GreenEDGE.
In better news — from an Irish perspective — Nicolas Roche of Saxo-Tinkoff and Philip Deignan of Team Sky got around safely, despite similarly greasy roads, finishing fourth and fifth at 23 and 35 seconds respectively.
Big favourites Orica GreenEDGE — who went off second and were one of two teams to enjoy a drier surface — set a blistering time of 24 minutes 42 seconds and on his birthday, it was Canadian Svein Tuft who crossed the line first for them, ensuring he’d wear the first pink leader’s jersey of this year’s race.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to wear pink, and what a fantastic team,” he said.
Tuft, who celebrated his 37th birthday yesterday, hailed his team for the “perfect gift”.
“What an amazing day. I never imagined something like this would happen. They gave me the perfect gift on my birthday.”
Today’s second stage takes the riders from the start in Belfast on a 218km loop of the north Antrim coast before returning to the city for the finish around 4pm. Though there are two category two climbs in the final 92kms, a bunch sprint is expected.