Mother recalls tragic death in Senegal
Exactly one year ago today, Frank Vandenbroucke was found dead in a hotel room in Senegal. He was just 34.
The autopsy indicated he died of a double pulmonary embolism, perhaps sparked by a pre-existent heart problem. Twelve months on, his mother has revealed she is still struggling to come to terms with his tragic death.
"It's as if fate caught up with us and has left a lot questions behind that still spin through my mind," she told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad in an exclusive interview.
"Why? What exactly happened in Senegal? Unfortunately I can't speak to the dead."
Vandenbroucke had traveled to Senegal for a holiday with close friend Fabio Polazzi. A few weeks before he had attended the world road race championships in Mendrisio and seemed to have his life back on track after problems with depression and drug use.
'VDB' was known as the 'enfant terrible' of Belgian cycling and was perhaps one of the most precocious and talented riders in the history of Belgian cycling. The Le Soir newspaper described him as "the James Dean of his generation," saying he "lived too fast, without noticing it, on the inebriety of success."
He turned professional at just 19 with the Lotto team but then moved to Mapei team, going on to win Ghent-Wevelgem and Paris-Nice. He joined Cofidis in 1999 and won Liege-Bastogne-Liege with a daring attack.
It was the highpoint of his career and tragically marked the start of a downward spiral. He changed teams year-after-year but his personal problems and drug issues persisted.
"When he had his difficult moments, me and Jean-Jacques (Frank's father) often thought that something bad would happen to him but not that day. He was well again and had work, writing for a newspaper," his mother recalls.
"Now. Every day I wake up with Frank on my mind and I go to bed with Frank on my mind. I'm constantly thinking of him. Sometimes I think: Where would Frank be now or what is Frank doing now?"
"On my 58th birthday in June I got maybe perhaps 50 letters but one was missing. I'm still waiting for a text message. Frank never forgot my birthday, in good times and bad."
Last Tuesday Vandenbroucke's parents attended the Binche-Tournai-Binche Memorial Frank Vandenbroucke race.
"I'm glad that Frank has not been forgotten. He won the last edition in 2006. I can still remember him with he bouquet in his hand He was so happy."
Vandenbroucke will be remembered with a special church service in his home town of Ploegsteert on Sunday.
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