In just 20 days time the world's second biggest bike race, the Giro d'Italia, will start in Ireland.
Over 800 million television viewers around the world will see three days of racing in Belfast, through the Glens of Antrim, and from Armagh down the east coast to Dublin before the race moves on to Italy.
The prospect of an Irishman wearing the coveted maglia rosa – the pink leader's jersey – while the race is on Irish soil looks a real possibility.
Hopes will be pinned on the shoulders of two men, first cousins Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin.
Nicolas's father, cycling legend Stephen Roche, has been here before, winning the Giro as part of an historic triple crown, along with the Tour de France and World Championships, in 1987. It is a feat that no rider has managed to repeat since.
Nicolas and Dan have been entrusted with the leadership of their respective teams, Tinkoff-Saxo and Garmin Sharp, both of which are considered strong enough to win the opening team time trial stage in Belfast and in the process catapult either rider into pink.
Of the two, Dan would be considered a slightly better bet to win the overall race, having scored victories in the prestigious Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Tour of Catalonia events, as well as a Tour de France stage victory, in 2013.
Dan Martin as a child. Photo: Declan Masterson
But there is also another intriguing subplot to the race – a private heartache that has received little attention to date.
While Nicolas and Dan are firm friends on and off their bikes, their families are nowhere near as united.
In fact a rift has existed between Dan's father Neil and Nicolas's father Stephen dating back over 30 years, one which the passage of time has failed to heal.
Last year Neil Martin, an English ex-pro cyclist who is married to Stephen Roche's sister Maria, said he didn't get on with Roche and never had much to do with him.
He felt Roche could have done more to help his fledgling career in the early 1980s, when he had been a promising young rider himself.
Roche has stayed silent about this "bit of friction", as he describes it, until this week.
At a dinner for cycling enthusiasts and journalists in Co Antrim, where he has been doing promotional work for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, he gave his version of events and made some remarks which are unlikely to draw a line under the row.
Nicholas Roche and Dan Martin. Photo: Brendan Moran
These included a controversial suggestion his nephew Dan, a former British under-18 road race champion who grew up in England, chose to represent Ireland as a flag of convenience to further his cycling career.
The remarks will hardly go down well with his nephew, who has spoken of his pride in representing Ireland.
Roche told those gathered at the dinner that while he had spoken to his son Nicolas about his preparation for the Giro, Dan hadn't asked him for help.
"He never really was in Ireland a lot. He was basically living in Birmingham," Roche told the gathering.
"No disrespect to Dan, he basically became Irish to get on the Irish team to go to the national races. Which is good. It goes to show you that without Ireland helping Dan, Dan wouldn't be where he is today. He wouldn't have got any exposure or any international races.
"But Dan was always British. Then he became Irish because it suited him. But he was never that close to the family."
This is something Dan would undoubtedly disagree with, having said in an interview last year: "I try to make it back to [my grandparent's home in] Dundrum a few times a year now just to see all the family. If you get a good week's weather it's one of the best places in the world to ride a bike."
At the dinner, Roche continued: "And of course there is a long, long story there as well."
The "long, long story" Roche is talking about can be traced back to an international schoolboys race held at a Butlins camp in Yorkshire in 1976, when he was just 16.
Neil Martin won that race and the two became pen pals and later visited each other's homes.
It was on one such trip across the Irish Sea to Dublin that Neil met and fell in love with Stephen's sister Maria.
Three years after the Butlins race, Neil was riding with a top French amateur club, Athletic Club de Boulogne-Billancourt (ACBB), which was a feeder team for Peugeot, one of the leading squads in the pro peloton at the time.
Dan Martin with his parents Neil and Maria
According to Neil, he recommended Roche to the Parisian club. At the time Roche was only riding part time and serving his apprenticeship as a machinist at a Dublin dairy.
Roche tells the story slightly differently, saying a French coach saw him racing in Ireland.
"He (the coach) went back to the French team and said: "I have this Irish guy Roche who I need a team for'. So basically they took me on and didn't take Neil back."
It was at this point the trajectory of their careers started to go in opposite directions. Neil would represent the United Kingdom at the Olympics, but he never scaled the heights of his illustrious brother-in-law and never got the chance to ride the Tour de France.
"I learned a number of years later that there was a chip on his shoulder," said Roche.
"[Neil felt] that I took his place, that he was always better than me, that if he had kept his place he would have done similar to what I did."
Roche dismissed any notion the better rider lost out, surmising ACBB may have concluded Neil did not have the same room for improvement at the time that he did.
"He was always racing and never working, while I was always working. When I gave up my day job [at the dairy], cycling became my day job," he said.
"There was always a bit of friction. It never bothered me at all, but I came to learn as the years went on there was always a bit of tension there."
At the dinner, Roche also described his nephew, as "an individualist" who didn't ask for advice.
However, he did not want this remark to be construed as a criticism. On the contrary, Dan was a lot like him, he said.
"Dan has always been very special, never one to ask or listen to advice. He knows everything. He is very shrewd. I often said if Nicolas had Dan's head he would win every race on the calendar. Dan would kill his mother to win a race."
Roche continued: "When Dan puts the number on his back he knows no mother, no father. He goes for it. That is what you are supposed to do ... if he sees an opportunity, he will take it. Dan has that thing in his head. He is a winner. That is why Dan always wins races every year. He has that instinct that he wants to win. Dan is a bit like me in that way. His mentality."
Roche is not discounting his son's chances either. Nicolas has been training at altitude on Mt Etna for the past four weeks and his father said he had never been "so focussed and committed scientifically."
The former champion also said he was equally proud of both young men.
But if Dan goes on to win the race, the most remarkable aspect of the victory will have been that it was done without any input from the one Irishman who has won it before.