Michele Scarponi was quite the cyclist.
Among other notable results, he won the 2011 Giro D'Italia, which is one of just two other "grand tour" multi-stage cycling races considered on par with the Tour de France.
He was also quite the man -- a father, husband and convivial figure who was dearly loved in the cycling world.
"Scarponi always sought out happiness in life, using a joke, a smile and a funny face to ease the pain, the suffering, and the disappointment of professional cycling," read an obituary on the website Cycling News after the Italian, aged 37, was killed in a collision with a van during a weekend training ride.
Now images and video have emerged showing that Scarponi was quite the bird lover too. Here he was a few months ago training with his semi-regular avian training partner, Frankie the macaw.
Michele Scarponi, the only cyclist that trained with a parrot.
Rest in peace and bicycle pic.twitter.com/MBCSC1itC7— Tancredi Palmeri (@tancredipalmeri) 22 de abril de 2017
For the record (and thanks to our blog editor Chris Harrison for the translation), the dialogue goes a little something like this:
"Come on, Frankie. Where is he? Here he is! Haha, onya, Frankie. C'mon, let's go. Did you miss me? Hey, what are you doing? You really like this helmet, don't you? Where are you going? Let's go, Frankie!"
A man and his faithful bird. It's touching, no?
You can read a whole lot more about the relationship between bird and bike rider in this 2016 piece on the cycling website velonews, in which Scarponi explained that:
"First of all, Frankie is not my 'pappagallo' [the Italian word for parrot]. He is the macaw of a neighbour who lives in a nearby village. Frankie is the mascot of our area, and during the summer, he flies from house to house, and goes into all the windows he finds open. He goes to the bar for the big soccer matches. Everybody knows him."
While Frankie clearly knew many people in the Marche area of Italy where Scarponi lived and trained, she clearly had a soft spot for Scarponi, as evidenced by this image of her sitting on a sign adjacent to the spot where the rider was tragically killed.
The sign is adorned with memorial flowers, and you'd swear the parrot appears to be waiting for her favourite cyclist to ride by.
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