Italian cyclist Michele Scarponi has died at the age of 37 after being struck by a van during a training ride in his hometown.
The 2011 Giro d'Italia winner had returned Filottrano after finishing fourth in the Tour of the Alps in Trento. Scarponi then left home early on Saturday morning for training when he was involved in a collision with a van at a crossroads.
The Italian was gearing up for another shot at winning the Giro, which starts on May 5.
Scarponi, who won the opening stage of the Tour of the Alps last week, leaves behind a wife and two young children.
Team Astana announced the cyclist's death in a statement on Saturday morning, describing it as a "tragedy too big to be written".
And Astana paid tribute to a "great champion and a special guy" who was in his fourth year of riding for the team having joined in 2014.
The team statement read: "Michele died in the morning while he was training. This is a tragedy too big to be written. Our athlete Michele Scarponi died this morning while he was training on his bike close to his home in Filottrano. Michele has been hit by a van on a crossroad.
"Born on 25 September 1979, he left a wife and two kids. Michele ended fourth in the Tour of Alps yesterday afternoon in Trento. Then he went home in Filottrano (Ancona) by car with his masseur and was home in the evening to his family. This morning Michele went out on his bike for an early morning training and there the tragedy happened.
"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."
Scarponi's final tweet
Even more devastating was Scarponi's final tweet. The evening before his death, he wrote: "... even if only for a day I thought I'd bring home 2 leader jerseys," with an image of his two kids and himself.
R.I.P Michele Scarponi.
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