Nicolas Roche: 'On the way past a Centra shop, I spotted a mural of Dan and myself'
Wednesday, May 7, Belfast
Immediately after the last stage of the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland last Sunday, the packing and logistics of getting to Belfast for the three-week Giro d'Italia began.
Our mechanics drove the team with all the bikes and spare equipment in it from Switzerland to Luxembourg and the team's base or 'service course'.
There, they changed everything into the truck that was due to leave for the Giro and, as far as I know, drove through the night to make the boat.
Luckily, my Tinkoff-Saxo team has a big enough infrastructure that everything can be divided in two. While we have a team bus and a mechanics truck in Belfast now, we will also have another set waiting in Bari for us when the race heads back to Italy on Monday as well.
Because it was complicated to get staff on airplanes and have people in the right place at the right time, some of the staff, like soigneurs and mechanics will be doing just the five days in Ireland, some are doing the last two weeks, while one or two will probably do the whole three weeks.
After just two nights in my own bed after the Tour of Romandie, I packed my bags and flew to Belfast.
Thankfully, I found a direct flight from Nice to Belfast yesterday and it made my arrival at the Grande Partenza, or Big Start, pretty smooth.
The same can't be said for my Colombian team-mate Eduard Beltran however, as the young climber's visa never materialised in time and he was forced to miss what would have been the biggest race of his career thus far.
Unfortunately, it seems riders from Russia and Colombia have been the worst affected when it comes to getting visas for the Giro. Although my Russian team-mates Ivan Rovny and Evgeny Petrov managed to get theirs just yesterday, two Russians from the Astana team – Maixm Iglinsky and Alexey Lutsenko – will also miss the race due to administration delays.
This morning started with the normal pre-Grand Tour UCI blood tests before local rider Connor McConvey, who rides for the Synergy Baku team, called to the hotel at around 10.0 in the morning and brought us out training on the local roads.
It was nice to get out and get the legs spinning and get some fresh air, although we only spent an hour and a half on the bikes as it was pretty cold and lashing rain.
Once again the weather has been stereotypically Irish, with sunshine, wind, rain and pretty much everything else thrown into the last day or two. Hopefully, the sun will come out at the weekend and my colleagues in the peloton and the worldwide TV audience will be able to see how beautiful our country really is.
On the way past a local Centra shop, I spotted a mural on the wall of myself and Dan (Martin) at the world championships last year. It was pretty cool and I stopped and got a photo taken beside it.
This afternoon I attended a press conference alongside some of the other 'pre-race favourites' and spent what seemed like a long time being interviewed by everyone from TV to radio, cycling magazines, websites and newspapers.
To wind down a bit this afternoon, I did an hour on the turbo trainer in the hotel and had a quick cup of tea with my dad when he called over.
With the race starting in Ireland, it's been a pretty hectic couple of days for me so far with everyone wanting to call to the team hotel for a quick chat, a photo or an autograph. Unfortunately, sometimes the schedule is so tight, I can't always oblige, but, hopefully, I'll get to see everyone before the weekend.
Although myself, Dan and Philip Deignan are getting all the media coverage here as the home riders, don't forget we also have Chris Juul Jensen riding the Giro.
Chris is my team-mate at Tinkoff-Saxo and is riding his first Grand Tour this week. Although he has a Danish passport now, he was born and bred in Wicklow, went to school there and raced in Ireland until he was 16, when his parents moved back to Denmark.
Chris is 24 and the joker of the team. There's never a dull moment when he's around. He's very excited about the Giro being here as well.
As the race begins on Friday evening with a team time trial in Belfast, the rider who crosses the finish line at the front of the fastest team will wear the pink jersey of race leader.
Traditionally, if a team has no big sprinter who can try and take time bonuses and increase his lead the following days, teams will allow their local rider, or in our case, our Irish rider to lead the team over the line at the end of the stage.
During the Tour of Romandie last week, Chris turned to me at the dinner table with a big cheeky grin and asked, "Nico, if I beat you across the line in the team time trial and win the pink jersey, will you be angry at me?"
Once a Viking, always a Viking.
Although he has the blonde hair and that bit of Viking blood in him, Chris has a stronger Irish accent than me and is as Irish as can be, so don't forget to give him a big 'failte romhat' when you see him over the next few days.
The atmosphere is really building up in Belfast at the minute and I can't wait until the team presentation tomorrow. I heard the tickets were snapped up by the public really early and I'm sure the atmosphere will be fantastic.