The MrBookmaker.com-SportsTech team has issued an ultimatum to troubled Belgian rider Frank Vandenbroucke: prove you're worthy of the label "racing cyclist" in the next four weeks or leave the team.
The deadline came during a meeting between team manager Hilaire Van Der Schueren and Vandenbroucke's manager, Paul De Geyter, though Vandenbroucke himself was not present. "It wasn't necessary for Frank to be there as I had already talked to him on the phone," Van Der Schueren told Sportwereld. "The tolerance of the sponsors MrBookmaker and SportsTech was running out after Frank again cancelled for various races. We have now given Frank four weeks to become a racer again. If he does not come good in that time, then we will let him go."
Van Der Schueren said that he had been in daily contact with Vandenbroucke, who was a last-minute scratching from Paris-Roubaix at the weekend because of illness, but said he did not know when Vandenbroucke would next pin on a race number. "We will wait for him, but it's obvious that our tolerance is not endless. Frank cannot damage the trust that my sponsors have put in him any more."
It's not the first time Vandenbroucke has found himself facing a 'shape up or ship out' message from his team. His career started brilliantly with a string of victories in 1998 and 1999 including Paris-Nice, Gent-Wevelgem, the Omloop Het Volk and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, but for several years he has struggled with depression and other personal problems. In 2001 he was sacked from Lampre-Daikin after going AWOL for several weeks, and last year was let go by Fassa Bortolo toward the end of the season.