ANCONA, Italy — Team Astana cyclist Michele Scarponi has been killed after being hit by a van while out training on Saturday.
Scarponi who won the Giro d'Italia in 2011, was training near his home of Filottrano, near Ancona, when he was hit by a van at a crossroad. He leaves behind a wife and twin sons.
According to initial reports the Italian cyclist, who was 37, died on the spot and was unable to be revived by emergency services.
Team Astana called it "a tragedy too big to be written" in a statement.
"We left 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 team clings to the Michele family in this incredibly painful moment of sorrow and mourning," It added
Scarponi was awarded the 2011 Giro trophy after Alberto Contador was stripped of the title because of doping.
He had been named as Astana's leader for the upcoming race, which starts in less than two weeks, after teammate Fabio Aru pulled out with a knee injury.
Scarponi had returned home after finishing fourth in the Tour of the Alps on Friday in Trento. He won the first stage on Monday.
The Italian was one of the most liked riders on the circuit, with his sense of humor and jovial disposition. He was also known for cycling with his pet parrot on his shoulders.
"Yesterday he was racing. He came up to me. Michele was smiling, as ever," Italy team coach Davide Cassani wrote on Twitter. "He was happy for (Monday's) win. He was talking about the Giro. And now I'm here crying for him. Oh my God."