Veteran Italian cyclist Michele Scarponi has died after being hit by a van while training on his bike, according to his racing team Astana.
The fatal crash happened on a crossroad near his home in central Italy on Saturday, with Team Astana paying tribute to the 37-year-old, who won the Giro d’Italia in 2011.
According to initial reports, Scarponi died on the spot and was unable to be revived by emergency services which arrived promptly.
“This is a tragedy too big to be written,” Team Astana said.
“We lost a great champion and a special guy, always smiling in every situation, he was a real mile stone and a landmark for everyone in the Astana Pro Team.”
The Italian was one of the most liked riders on the circuit and there was an outpouring of sympathy in the cycling world.
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) April 22, 2017
Italy team coach Davide Cassani wrote on Twitter: “Yesterday he was racing. He came up to me. Michele was smiling, as ever.”
“He was happy for [Monday’s] win. He was talking about the Giro. And now I’m here crying for him. Oh my God.”
Quick-Step Cycling team said: “Our thoughts and prayers go to the family, friends and team of Michele Scarponi, who passed away this morning in a traffic incident.”
That was echoed by Spanish rider Alberto Contador who said: “Paralysed and speechless with the news about Scarponi. Great person and always with a contagious smile. RIP, friend.”
Paralizado y sin palabras ante la noticia sobre el atropello a Scarponi,gran persona y siempre con una sonrisa contagiosa.D.E.P amigo.
— Alberto Contador (@albertocontador) April 22, 2017
Scarponi 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 in the race, a crucial warm-up event before next month’s Giro d’Italia, the first of the year’s Grand Tours.
Scarponi leaves a wife and twin sons.