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Giro d’Italia: Dan Down at First Hurdle

It’s always a rare opportunity for an Irish cyclist to begin a Grand Tour in his homeland. Spare a thought then for Garmin-SHARP’s Dan Martin. On Friday the Irish professional departed the Titanic slipway in Belfast for the first stage team time-trial, only to crash out halfway through the 21 kilometre course. Martin was last seen exiting the course clutching a broken collarbone.

Martin appeared to lose control of his bike on a manhole cover in damp conditions before taking three teammates with him. In the build-up to the Grand depart, many of the peloton, cycling in Ireland for the first time, speculated on the role of the weather. So it was slightly ironic that an Irishman became Mother Nature’s first casualty.

The first week of a Grand Tour is normally riddled with accidents until nerves and pecking orders are established. But Martin has already tasted the tarmac this year. In April, he came agonisingly close to defending his Liege-Bastogne-Liege title, only to fall in almost identical circumstances. However, this latest blow seems the bitterest for Martin who had prioritised the Giro this year.

Ireland’s hosting of the event aside, in the absence of Froome, Contador and others, who are saving themselves for the Tour de France, this year’s Giro provided a clear opportunity for fresh faces to grab the limelight. And Martin, a stage winner from last year’s Tour de France, was considered a genuine contender for the Maglia Rosa.

He is survived in the race by fellow compatriots Nicolas Roche of Saxo-Tinkoff and Sky’s Philip Deignan who finished fourth and fifth. But it was Orica Greenedge’s Svein Tuft who was first to don the pink jersey. The Canadian capitalised on drier conditions to win the team time-trial in just 24 minutes 42 seconds.

Stage two will take the peloton on a 218km loop from Belfast to the northern Antrim coast and back again. While on Sunday, the final Irish stage begins in Antrim before crossing the border on the way to Dublin’s Merrion Square. The race will reach Italian soil on Tuesday where over three-thousand kilometres of mountainous terrain stand between the peloton and its final destination in Trieste on June 1st.

Alan Casey, Pundit Arena.

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