Frans Van Looy has died at the age of 69, according to reports in the Belgian media this weekend. Van Looy was a professional rider from 1972 to 1982, and a teammate of five-time Tour de France winner Eddy Merckx. Later, he worked a sports director on the Telekom/T-Mobile team.
Since retirement, Van Looy had helped run his family's farm in Merksem, near Flanders' capital, Antwerp. However, a local government order ruled that Van Looy could no longer live at the farm, despite a petition signed by 3,000 people to preserve the residence that Van Looy had been born in, in 1950, according to Het Laatste Nieuws.
Van Looy took part in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games ahead of turning professional that year, and his victories as a pro included stage wins at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 1974 and the Volta a Catalunya in 1978. He also won Belgian one-day race the Nationale Sluitingsprijs three times, in 1974, 1975 and 1979, and was a teammate of Merckx during the 1975 and 1976 seasons on Italian squad Molteni.
At T-Mobile, Van Looy worked under team manager Walter Godefroot, and alongside fellow sports director Rudy Pevenage, who said that he "knew that Frans had been struggling with psychological problems for a while", according to HLN.be.
"I worked with Frans at Team Telekom for about 10 years," said Pevenage. "It had been a while since I'd seen him. [The last time] must have been on a race about two years ago. This news is very hard to take."
Van Looy was reportedly also very close to former professional rider Erik Zabel, who was on the Telekom/T-Mobile team at the same time as Van Looy, and now works as a coach at Katusha-Alpecin.
Cyclingnews extends its condolences to Van Looy's family and friends.