Milan - The
Astana cycling team will pay tribute to former team leader Michele
Scarponi by not replacing the Italian on the three-week race, which
begins next week in Sardinia.
Scarponi, who was set to lead Astana's bid for the coveted pink
jersey over the May 5-28 event, was tragically killed in a training ride
accident last week.
Although Astana have the right to field nine riders at the first
Grand Tour of the season, the Kazakh team run by disgraced former
champion Alexandre Vinokourov have opted not to replace him.
They will now only field eight riders and also carry Scarponi's bike
on the gallery of their team car as they drive through Italy.
"To honour the memory of our Italian rider Michele Scarponi, who
tragically died last week while training, Astana Proteam renounces the
opportunity to substitute the designated captain and will ride the 100th
edition of the Giro d’Italia with eight riders instead of nine," said a
The 37-year-old Scarponi had been elevated to team leader status last
months after Astana's pink jersey challenger Fabio Aru was forced to
withdraw through injury, and signalled his readiness by claiming his
first win in four years with a stage win at the Tour of the Alps.
Vinokourov said: "What happened to Michele is a real tragedy ... it is a huge blow for the whole team.
"Michele should have been our leader for the Giro and for this reason
we decided not to substitute Michele in the line-up for the race,
leaving his race number free.
"Every day in this Giro d'Italia as well as in all other races
Michele will be with us and day by day we will ride trying to honor his
memory, fighting and smiling as he taught us all to do."
A fund to help Scarponi's wife and twin children has also been set
up, and announced by Astana on the team's website.
The Kazakh outfit confirmed their eight-man team as follows: Pello
Bilbao, Zhandos Bizhigitov, Dario Cataldo, Jesper Hansen, Tanel Kangert,
Luis Leon Sanchez, Paolo Tiralongo and Andrey Zeits.