Italian cycling champion Michele Scarponi has been killed in a traffic accident in Italy, only days after finishing 4th at the Tour of the Alps.
His Astana team said in a statement that he was hit by a van at a cross roads on a early morning training ride near his home in central Italy.
Scarponi led a varied career. From the lows of a 15 month doping ban after Operation Puerto, to the highs of winning the coveted Maglia Rosa at the 2011 Giro d’Italia (after Spaniard Alberto Contador was disqualified for doping).
But along with personal glory, Scarponi was known as a devoted team player. He helped fellow Italian Vincenzo Nibali to win the Tour de France in 2014, and the Giro in 2016. Victory at the opening stage of the Tour of the Alps was the first win for “Scarpa” in four years.
Tributes have poured in for one of the peloton’s most popular riders, praising the Italian for his up-beat attitude, and mid-race outbursts of song.
What a terrible news
MicheleScarponi</a>. I'll never forget the times you started singing a song in the middle of peloton. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RIPMichele?src=hash">#RIPMichele</a></p>— Sep Vanmarcke (sepvanmarcke) April 22, 2017
Absolutely devastating to see the tragic news about
MicheleScarponi</a> . One of the nicest guys you could ever meet. RIP my friend. <a href="https://t.co/hJrx4hgdoE">pic.twitter.com/hJrx4hgdoE</a></p>— Mark Cavendish (MarkCavendish) April 22, 2017
Terrible news to wake up to. One of the smiliest happiest guys in the peloton. RIP— Alex Dowsett (@alexdowsett) April 22, 2017
We will miss this guy in the peleton, always with a smile 🙏! RIP
MicheleScarponi</a> <a href="https://t.co/KrJFx3MD63">https://t.co/KrJFx3MD63</a></p>— Greg Van Avermaet (GregVanAvermaet) April 22, 2017
In 2016 Scarponi showed his comedic side on Twitter, posting a series of videos of his neighbour’s pet macaw, Frankje, who would fly alongside the cyclist, or even hitch a ride home.
…3 orette oggi Frankje…👌😎🔝 pic.twitter.com/Qg5RGPyHBP— Michele Scarponi (@MicheleScarponi) November 22, 2016
..butta giù un dente Frankje👍🚴😉 pic.twitter.com/OmacryPv4W— Michele Scarponi (@MicheleScarponi) November 21, 2016
The 37-year-old is survived by his wife and two young children.