Team Astana has posted a ‘farewell interview’ with Michele Scarponi online to coincide with the start of the 2017 Giro d’Italia on Friday, May 5.
Italian Scarponi had been due to lead the team in the 100th edition of the Giro, but lost his life after being hit by a van during a training ride on April 22.
The interview runs for half an hour, during which time Scarponi, 37, talks about his life, career and how he became associated with Frankie the parrot, who used to accompany him on training rides near his home.
“We were keeping this video for the most important race of the season,” reads the message accompanying the video.
“When Michele was elected as a designated leader of Astana for the Giro, he said: ‘I think, that’s the right time to put it online’ … We do just that. Today he will cross the start line shoulder to shoulder with his teammates.”
Scarponi was well known in the peloton and among fans for his sense of humour and friendliness – but he admitted it didn’t always come easily after a tough day.
“It’s not easy to always wear a smile,” says Scarponi. “But I have a very special relationship with my fans, I am there fan too, if you like. I always try and share a photo, a handshake or at least a smile.
“It might be a TT or a bad day when there’s no fuel for a smile. I know I don’t look myself in these moments, but I do my best to bring back a better me as soon as possible.”
Speaking about Frankie the parrot, and how they first met, Scarponi says: “Frankie is more famous than me!”
“It was after the Tour won with Nibali, I was on a training ride. And then, what the hell? A parrot above my head. He started to dive on me, and I had to grab the brakes. Parrots in the eyes mean it’s time you pedal home.
Scarponi sought out the bird’s owner, who let him sit on his shoulder and the two bonded. The fact that the parrot’s plumage matched Scarponi’s Astana kit made it look like the two were on the same team.
“We started training together. First slowly, now he accompanies me, flies along for some 10-15km.”
Scarponi ends the interview being asked what he hopes for in the 2017 season.
“The dream… It would be good – I say it would be, I’m a realist – if I ride on the same level as last year. To prove to everyone, to myself, first of all, I still have something in store.”
The signs were that Scarponi was in good form heading into his home Grand Tour, with a stage victory in the Tour of the Alps in late April. Tragically, he would never realise his dream at the Giro.
Scarponi’s funeral took place in his home town of Filottrano on April 25, and was attended by over 5,000 people.
The eight members of Astana’s Giro team led out the peloton on the opening stage of the race in tribute to Scarponi. He was not replaced in the team as a mark of respect.