T
he Tour de France gets all the media, the local tours of California and Colorado get all the stateside enthusiasm and the Vuelta De España just gets outright ignored. But what about the Giro d’Italia, the 2,100-mile, 21-day epic that begins in the (decidedly non Italian) city of Belfast, Ireland? It’s arguably the best cycling race in the world, and definitively one of the sporting world’s greatest events.

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The 97th running of the Giro, which starts today, features 21 stages during which 200 riders will have to negotiate massive alpine peaks, winding 65 mph descents, powerful attacks and sprint finishes, all set against a stunning Italian landscape. The Tour de France can stuff its yellow jersey; the Giro has panache. And this year’s event is promising to be a great, with two strong favorites going into the race: the upstart, Nairo Quintana, a 24 year old Colombian with astonishing climbing legs, and Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez, the wily veteran looking to finally score an overall win at a grand tour. This grand prize fight will doubtlessly by punctuated by gutsy quests for individual stage wins and the fight to win sprinter’s and climber’s classifications.

For the uninitiated, watching cycling is a bit like watching baseball. There are periods where the stage turns into a beautiful “Visit Italy” ad while announcers find something (mildly) interesting to say about every historic church and villa that passes in front of the camera. But there are also intense periods of attacks, counter attacks, sprints and cat-and-mouse tactical battles. For those that enjoy savoring a situation — one out in the ninth with a left-handed batter on deck sort of stuff — there’s no better sport to watch, and the Giro d’Italia is the perfect gateway. Catch it live on beIN sports network, or, if you are unwilling to go spelunking in the TV guide, we’re sure that you could find a high-quality live stream if you looked hard enough (*ahem*).

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