Astana rider Michele Scarponi has died after a collision with a truck while out on a training ride this morning.
Scarponi was riding near his home in the eastern Italian town of Filottrano when he collided with a lorry at a crossroads.
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Emergency services were dispatched to the incident, including an air ambulance from the nearest major hospital, but Scarponi died at the scene.
Scarponi’s Astana team, who he had ridden with since 2014, described the incident as “a tragedy too big to be written”.
They continued: “This morning Michele went out on his bike for an early morning training and there the tragedy happened.
“We have lost a great champion and a special guy, always smiling in every situation.”
Astana general manager Alexandre Vinokourov said in a statement: “We are in deep shock, it is a huge sorrow for all of us, for family, friends and colleagues of Michele.
“Michele Scarponi was a great champion. This is a huge loss, no words to express my pain. On behalf of the entire Astana Team my condolences go out to the family and friends of Michele Scarponi.”
The 37-year-old had most recently competed in the Tour of the Alps where he won a stage and finished fourth overall, and had been due to lead Astana at the Giro d’Italia.
One of the best stage racers in the world in his pomp, Scarponi’s greatest victory came when he won the Giro d’Italia overall in 2011, also winning three stages in the race in 2009 and 2010.
He also finished fourth in the Giro d’Italia on three other occasions, with other general classification victories in Tirreno-Adriatico in 2009 and the Volta a Catalunya and Giro del Trentino in 2011.