Last year, Frank Vandenbroucke was found dead in a Senegalese hotel room.
Only 34, the star rider was making an attempted comeback from his storied yet sordid cycling career. In 2009, he rode for Cinelli-Down Under team and already had success. Out of contract he was looking for a team for 2010.
He started like a young fireball at 19 turning professional. Some said he started way too early too young for the rigors … and pitfalls of professional cycling. Yet, he was good, so good he impressed all with his riding talents that he was unfairly labeled by the press as the next Eddy Merckx.
His first six years saw him riding a huge wave of wins, totaling 51. Vandenbroucke or VDB as the cycling press crowned him won big races. The wins were huge: Ghent-Wevelgem, Paris-Nice, Het-Volk, Liege-Bastogne-Liege & two Vuelta stages. He was the next Eddy Merckx … wasn’t he?
Like a fireball burning brightly it started to fizzle. Two failed marriages resulted in depression. His cocaine use in one relationship was cited. He was known for his rows with his teams. Drunk driving charges, police finding a huge amount of doping substances at his home & the suicide attempts saw his decline.
He started in cycling winning his first big event at 17 years old. Unresolved problems with his parents stunted his early years. Meteoric rise to the pressure filled heights of cycling had its shared problems. With the sinister drug taking providing an uneasy partner with his cycling.
Frank Vandenbroucke died of a double pulmonary embolism. The Belgian newspaper Le Soir described VDB as cycling’s “enfant terrible… the James Dean of his generation. Frank Vandenbroucke lived too fast, and died too young.