The cycling star, whose professional career began in 2002, was in the twilight of his career but proved his enduring quality on Monday when he took his first victory in four years in the opening stage of the Tour of the Alps.
He outsprinted Briton Geraint Thomas and Thibaut Pinot of France to claim the early lead of the race, a key warm-up event ahead of next month’s Giro d’Italia, the first of the year’s Grand Tours.
Scarponi, bringing smiles to the cycling community in 2016 by cycling with a parrot:
Astana said Scarponi had gone home after finishing fourth on Friday in the Tour of the Alps and spent the evening with his young family.
“This morning Michele went out on his bike for an early morning training and there the tragedy happened,” the team statement said. “We left a great champion and a special guy, always smiling in every situation, he was a real milestone and a landmark for everyone in the Astana Pro Team. … The Astana Pro Team clings to the Michele family in this incredibly painful moment of sorrow and mourning.”
The Cycling Community Remembers Scarponi
Scarponi was gearing up for another tilt at the Giro, which starts on May 5 in Sardinia, when the collision occurred in Filottrano, in Ancona province. He was set to lead the Astana team at the showpiece after injury to Fabio Aru.
“Immense tragedy. There are no words. Rest in peace my friend,” Aru tweeted.
Many cyclists raced in honor of Scarponi over the weekend. Ex-teammate Vincenzo Nibali dedicated his Tour of Croatia win Saturday to Scarponi and his family, telling Cyclingnews, “[Scarponi] was like a brother for me.” Meanwhile, Alejandro Valverde dedicated his Liège-Bastogne-Liège win to Scarponi and pledged to donate his prize money to Scarponi’s family, while current Astana racers wore black armbands while racing in Scarponi’s memory:
— Team Bahrain Merida (@Bahrain_Merida) April 23, 2017
Cyclist Alberto Contador also tweeted his shock, noting that he was “paralysed and speechless.” He described Scarponi as “a great person and always with a contagious smile.” Scarponi won the 2011 Giro after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title for doping. The Italian was himself suspended for doping for 18 months between 2007 and 2008.
Other cycling teams expressed their sadness.
“Our thoughts and prayers go to the family, friends and team of Michele Scarponi, who passed away this morning in a traffic incident,” Quick-Step Cycling team said on Twitter.
That was echoed by the BMC Racing Team, who tweeted: “Our thoughts are with you all.”
Flowers have been left at the site of the crash:
Frankje attendant son maitre… J'ai jamais vu une image aussi triste de toute ma vie. pic.twitter.com/r4njYJRS9S
— Dans la musette (@DansLaMusette) April 23, 2017
Scarponi’s death underlines the dangers faced by professional cyclists training on the roads.
In January 2016 six riders from the Giant-Alpecin team, including Frenchman Warren Barguil and John Degenkolb of Germany, were seriously injured after being hit by a car during a training trip to Spain. (Team member Chad Haga live-tweeted his recovery.)
Two months later Frenchman Romain Guyot, a young cyclist with the Vendee U team, died after being struck on his bike.
“The bike was his life, we’ll say goodbye to him dressed as a cyclist,” she said. “For me and the children, this was the Michele who came home from work every day.”
On – 24 Apr, 2017 By afp