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Family, friends and thousands of fans gather to pay their respects
The funeral of cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke took place in his home town of Ploegsteert, Belgium, Saturday morning. Family and close family friends attended a private funeral service at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, as fans of the Walloon rider gathered in the square outside the church to pay their respects.
"It is a traditional funeral, delivered in French," Andre Kardinael, parish priest of Ploegsteert, told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad before the funeral ceremony began. "I personally have not met Frank Vandenbroucke, except through the media; I leave it to the family left to talk about him during the funeral."
Vandenbroucke died on Monday, October 12, in Saly, Senegal, at the age of 34. An autopsy carried out in the African nation determined that he had passed away after suffering a pulmonary embolism. His body had been repatriated to Belgium earlier this week.
The Belgian cycling community turned out in great numbers to celebrate Vandenbroucke's life. Patrick Lefevere, Wilfried Peeters, Johan Museeuw, Leif Hoste and Peter Van Petegem were all in attendance, while former Cofidis teammate Nico Mattan acted as a pallbearer and escorted the coffin of his close friend into the church service.
Estimates placed the number of fans outside the church at between 1000 and 2000 people. Although a private ceremony, those gathered outside were able to observe the service on screens erected outside.
After the ceremony Vandenbroucke's body was transported to a nearby cemetery in Ploegsteert, where he was interred at his family's burial site.
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