By Agence France Presse
Belgian cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke has died at the age of 34, a source close to the racer told the French news service Agence France Presse.
According to Belgian media, Vandenbroucke was found dead in his hotel room in Senegal, where he was on holiday. A preliminary diagnosis suggests Vandenbroucke suffered from a pulmonary embolism.
“Sadly this has only partly come as a surprise, for we knew he was not doing too well,” said his uncle, former racer Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke. “He was up and down, both in terms of his health and his morale. He left for Senegal on Sunday.”
Vandenbroucke made his professional debut in 1994 and recorded 51 victories. His best season came in 1999, when he won eight races, including the Liège-Bastogne-Liège classic and two stages in the Vuelta a España. He finished that year third in the UCI’s final standings.
In 2002, Vandenbroucke was twice stopped by police and discovered to be driving under the influence of alcohol. In another incident that year, a police search at his home uncovered a large quantity of doping substances. Two years later, he was sentenced to 200 hours of community service.
In 2003, when he rode for the Quick Step team, Vandenbroucke appeared on the way back after a second-place finish in the prestigious Tour of Flanders classic.
However, despite a promising start to the 2004 season, hopes of a sustained comeback were cut short and he sank further into depression. In July of that year, police were called to his home in response to a domestic dispute after he reportedly brandished a shotgun during an argument with his then-wife, Sarah, and threatened to kill himself.
Two years ago, while signed to Acqua e Sapone, Vandenbroucke tried to commit suicide after his wife said she was divorcing him.
But earlier this year he had returned to racing, riding for the modest Cinelli-Down Under team, having signed for them in February. In April he won the time trial and took the leader’s jersey at La Boucle de l’Artois, a second-division French race.
He would not keep it, though; he fell to third overall after the final stage, finishing behind Sergey Firsanov (Team Designa Kokken) and Dimitri Champion (Bretagne-Schuller).