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Astana honours Michele Scarponi by leaving his Giro d'Italia place empty

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

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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