Kazakh team will start Italian Grand Tour on Friday with eight riders instead of nine

Astana has chosen to honour Michele Scarponi, killed last weekend while out on a training ride, by leaving the 2011 Giro d'Italian champion's place in its squad empty and its leader's race number unused when the 100th edition of the race begins on Sardinia this Friday.

> Tributes paid to Giro d’Italia winner Michele Scarponi after his death at age 37

The Kazakh team will start the race with eight riders instead of nine following its decision not to replace the 37-year-old, who was killed when he was hit by a truck while riding near his home in Italy's Marche region.

Scarponi, who was awarded the 2011 title after Alberto Contador was stripped of the win, had been due to lead Astana's challenge after Fabio Aru was ruled out through injury. 

"What has happened to Michele is a real tragedy that no one could expect or face out," said general manager Alexandr Vinokurov. "It is a huge blow for the whole team.

"Michele should have been our leader for the Giro and in 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 honour his memory, fighting and smiling as he taught us all to do.

The complete roster of Astana Proteam for the 100th Giro d’Italia is: Pello Bilbao, Zhandos Bizhigitov, Dario Cataldo, Jesper Hansen, Tanel Kangert, Luis Leon Sanchez, Paolo Tiralongo and Andrey Zeits. The team will be directed by Alexandr Shefer, Giuseppe Martinelli and Stefano Zanini.

- I think, this is right decision and I am sure the organizers of the Giro d’Italia as well as the whole cycling community will accept and understand it. Obviously, this will not the only initiative that Astana Proteam is promoting to remember Michele and also to help his family. We initiated such an important thing as the fundraiser for his family, while many others will be developed in the next weeks and months, - added Alexandr Vinokurov.

Astana's line-up for the race will be Pello Bilbao, Zhandos Bizhigitov, Dario Cataldo, Jesper Hansen, Tanel Kangert, Luis Leon Sanchez, Paolo Tiralongo and Andrey Zeits.

> Giro d'Italia 2017: Our stage-by-stage preview of the 100th edition

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.