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Giro d'Italia

Giro di Hoody: I cannot wait to see Vincenzo Nibali and Remco Evenepoel face off

The Giro d'Italia serves up a rare treat of seeing one of the sport's legends square off against one of the peloton's rising stars.

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Talk about a dream matchup for the 2021 Giro d’Italia.

Remco Evenepoel and Vincenzo Nibali will be sparring at the season’s opening grand tour — grazie, dèi del ciclismo. I cannot wait.

After a long COVID winter, and a spring classics campaign truncated by stay-at-home orders and closed bars, Remco vs. Nibs is just what my pandemic doctor ordered.

It’s hard to imagine a better way to usher in the grand tour racing season than to see these two superstar racers confirmed for the start Saturday in Torino.

It was no secret that Evenepoel was going to make his long-awaited grand tour debut, but Deceuninck-Quick-Step made it official Monday by confirming its “Giro Eight.”

Even more surprising was Trek-Segafredo confirming that Nibali is OK to race despite fracturing his wrist in a training crash last month. It was down to the wire, but the two-time Giro champion is cleared to race.

That means two of the peloton’s biggest stars — at opposite ends of their respective career trajectories — will be facing off during the three-week Italian grand tour (May 8-31).

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Not to take anything away from the other Giro favorites, but these two by far are the most unpredictable, ambitious, and daring riders in the bunch right now.

Even if both of them will be a bit hobbled — Evenepoel is coming in untested following his crash at Il Lombardia while Nibali is hobbled by his arm — it will be a sure bet that both of them at some point will light the race on fire.

At 21, Evenepoel remains untested beyond a week or so of racing, so he will be out to prove to everyone his grand tour future credentials. Even if he doesn’t finish this Giro due to his return from injury, you know Evenepoel will try to do something to leave his mark on the race.

The kid is a natural-born racer, and it’s been torture for him to sit on the sidelines for six months. It’s hard to imagine him not swinging for the fences on at least a few days.

And if finds his legs, Evenepoel will fight like a warrior to make it to Milano. Even if he’s not yet in top shape, finishing a three-week grand tour will be an important milestone in his career.

At the other ends of the spectrum is the 36-year-old Nibali.

Unlike Evenepoel, cycling’s “Shark” has nothing to prove, yet he will be racing on pride to remind everyone why he’s only among a handful of riders to win all three grand tours.

The Giro will already be a generational clash, with the likes of Dan Martin and Bauke Mollema trying to fend off the rising tide of Egan Bernal, Jai Hindley, and João Almeida.

Seeing Evenepoel and Nibali racing together — even if it’s off the top of their games — will be a bit like watching Bernard Hinault pass the torch to Greg LeMond.

They’ve only crossed paths a few times in some relatively minor races like the Volta ao Algarve or the Deutschland Tour, so the chance to witness them together in a race as prestigious and important as the Giro means cycling fans will be in for a rare treat.

As if everyone didn’t need another excuse to watch the Giro, Monday’s confirmations just made the prospect of this year’s “corsa rosa” even better.