Milan - Vincenzo Nibali threw down the gauntlet to Tour de France champion Chris Froome on Tuesday, challenging the Briton to ride next year's centenary Giro d'Italia.
Italian Nibali, who claimed his second Giro triumph ahead of Colombia's Esteban Chaves earlier this year, is expected to duel with former Astana team-mate Fabio Aru for victory next May in the 100th edition on the Giro, whose route was unveiled in Milan on Tuesday.
"(It's) a difficult Giro, very complicated. You will have to take it day by day and try to save as much energy as possible early on," said Nibali, 31.
Although Froome said he will not ride the Giro because it would affect his preparations for the Tour de France, the Kenya-born Briton recently hinted on Twitter that the route for next year's Giro was tempting.
If Froome does change his mind, the Team Sky leader would be returning to the race for the first time since 2010 when he was disqualified for hanging on to a police motorbike on the Mortirolo climb, which will feature next year in what looks to be a thrilling final week in the mountains.
Nibali, who suffered the same fate as Froome when he was thrown off the Tour of Spain in 2015, will race on his native Sicily on stages four and five urged Froome to return to the Giro.
"I think for him, even if it's just one time in his life, he should come and try the Giro d'Italia," added Nibali, who won the Tour in 2014.
"He would realise how much affection there is here, how much love there is for cycling and how important the Giro is.
"If he came, we'd all be happy."
Race director Mauro Vegni hopes the prospect of winning the centenary edition is enough to entice more high-calibre riders.
"I think we're right when we say the Giro d'Italia is the 'toughest race in the world, in the world's most beautiful place'. It summarises the Giro d'Italia, especially for the 100th edition," said Vegni.
"We have created a wholly Italian race that visits as much of the country as possible to celebrate the race, and also the history of Italy and especially the Giro d'Italia."
Froome's participation at the Giro would prove a huge boon for organisers, although the three-time Tour de France winner is instead expected to focus all his energy on winning a fourth yellow jersey.
It would leave Nibali as the top dog, with Aru just one of several challengers looking to succeed him in the pink jersey.
Nibali, who will race for Bahrain-Merida next year, said he was excited by the prospect of racing in his native Sicily.
"It's a unique occasion, it's the 100th edition, it comes to my island, my region and my city," he said.
"It's very interesting. I like it."
Stages for the 100th edition of the 2017 Giro d'Italia, to be held over a 3572.2 kilometres route on May 5-28:
May 5 - Stage 1: Alghero to Olbia (203 km)
May 6 - Stage 2: Olbia to Tortoli (208 km)
May 7 - Stage 3: Tortoli to Cagliari (148 km)
May 8 - rest day
May 9 - Stage 4: Cefalu to Etna (180 km)
May 10 - Stage 5: Pedara to Messina (157 km)
May 11 - Reggio Calabria to Luigiane Spa (207 km)
May 12 - Stage 7: Castrovillari to Alberobello (220 km)
May 13 - Stage 8: Molfetta to Peschici (189 km)
May 14 - Stage 9: Montenero di Bisaccia to Blockhaus (139 km)
May 15 - rest day
May 16 - Stage 10: Foligno to Montefaclo (39.2 km individual time trial)
May 17 - Stage 11: Florence to Bagno di Romana (161 km)
May 18 - Stage 12: Forli to Reggio Emilia (237 km)
May 19 - Stage 13: Reggio Emilia to Tortona (162 km)
May 20 - Stage 14: Castellania to Oropa (131 km)
May 21 - Stage 15: Valdengo to Bergamo (199 km)
May 22 - rest day
May 23 - Stage 16: Rovetta to Bormio (227 km)
May 24 - Stage 17: Tirano to Canazei (219 km)
May 25 - Stage 18: Moena to Ortisei/St. Ulrich (137 km)
May 26 - Stage 19: San Candido/Innichen - Piancavalo (191 km)
May 27 - Stage 20: Pordenone to Asiago (190 km)
May 28 - Stage 21: Monza race track to Milan (28 km individual time trial)