The Astana team have published a 30-minute video interview with the recently deceased Michele Scarponi, entitled the 'farewell interview', on the day the Giro d'Italia rolled out of Alghero for the start of the 100th edition.
After playing an instrumental role in Vincenzo Nibali's victory 12 months ago, the Italian was supposed to lead the team at the race he won in 2011, but he tragically lost his life on April 22 when hit by a van on a training ride near his home.
Tributes were paid to him on the morning of the opening stage in the Sardinian town on Friday, with the Astana team gathering and standing at the head of the peloton on the start line for a minute's silence observed by all 195 riders and the thousands of fans in attendance.
The Astana team soon published a video on their YouTube channel of an in-depth interview with Scarponi conducted several weeks earlier. "We were keeping this video for the most important race of the season," read the message below the video. "When Michele was elected as a designated leader of Astana for the Giro, he said: 'I think, that's the right time to put it online.'"
The interview starts off by exploring Scarponi's personality – the smiles and zest for life that were remembered warmly by so many in the aftermath of his death.
"I'm the type of guy who doesn't take himself too seriously. I'm blessed with a positive outlook and I like to see happy faces around," he says.
He does warn, however, that "it's not always easy to wear a smile. I have a special relationship with the tifosi – I'm a tifoso of the tifosi if you like – and I always try to share a photo, a handshake or at least a smile. At times my openness is taken for granted. It might be a time trial or a bad day when there's no fuel left for a smile… I know I don't seem myself in those moments, but I do my best to bring back a better me as soon as possible."
He also talks about Frankje, the macaw who became something of a social media sensation after Scarponi posted videos of him flying alongside him on training rides.
"Frankje is more famous than me," he laughs, telling the story of how it all began. "He's from Montoro, where my grandparents live, and it was after the Tour that Nibali won, in 2014, I was out on my bike, and then, 'what the hell – a parrot above my head? Mamma mia.' He started to dive towards me and I had to grab the brakes. When you're seeing parrots that means it's time to head home. But as soon as I set off again he attacked again and I got really scared.
"This hunt continued for months. And then I said, 'Enough! I need to talk to his owner – I can't train'. I came to Montoro and saw him right away, sitting on the shoulder of his owner's friend. He put him on my shoulder and that was a breakthrough. Perhaps Frankje concluded he'd signed with Astana, or that I was a parrot like him. Anyway, we started training together, slowly at first. But now he accompanies me, flying along for 10-15km. He's a unique creature. One day he's watching tennis, the next day a soccer match. He's everyone's darling – welcome everywhere. He's a star."
He also discusses his own career, from his first professional steps with Aqua e Sapone through to the last few years at Astana, commenting on how Italian cycling has changed in that time. He sighs and says cycling should find a balance between globalisation and honouring its roots, adding: "Anyway, I'm a much better rider than politician."
Towards the end of the video he is asked what his dream would be for the 2017 season. "To ride at the same level as last year," he replies. "To prove to everyone – to myself, most of all – that I still have something left."