Vandenbroucke's final hours
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vandenbroucke's final hours

by Agence France-Presse at 9:17 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
An autopsy on Belgian cyclist Franck Vandenbroucke, found dead in his hotel room here on Monday, will take place on either Wednesday or Thursday, Senegalese police have announced.

"The autopsy will take place tomorrow (Wednesday) or the day after (Thursday) in Dakar," a police source revealed on Tuesday, before adding that "we shouldn't lose ourselves in conjecture" over the cause of his death.

The 34-year-old was on holiday with his cyclist friend Fabio Polazzi.

Staff at the seaside hotel where he was staying said he had been drinking and vomited before he died.

His body was found in a room at the hotel, 'La maison bleue', where he checked in at 0200 local time (0000GMT) on Monday.

"When he arrived, he was drunk," a hotel employee told AFP.

"He was with a Senegalese woman. He came for one night and we served him a beer," the employee said, asking not to be named.

"About four in the morning his girlfriend came and asked for a mop because he had been sick," the man said after being interviewed by police.

"By one p.m. (Monday) he had not come out of his room. About eight p.m. my boss called me and said the client had died."

An AFP reporter and photographer were allowed into the room on Tuesday from where the body had been removed by emergency workers in Saly, one of Senegal's main resorts, 70 kilometres (45 miles) south of the capital Dakar.

Vandenbroucke made his professional debut in 1994 and recorded 51 victories, including the 1999 Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic, his career highlight.

In 2002, Vandenbroucke was twice stopped by police under the influence of alcohol at the wheel of a car. Later that year, a police search at his home uncovered a large quantity of doping substances.

In Belgium, family and friends recalled a deeply troubled if talented rider.

Vandenbroucke had suffered from depression and two years ago tried to commit suicide after his wife said she was divorcing him.

"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."

His father Jean-Jacques said Frank had gone on holiday in a happy mood.

"He left in good health, he was beaming because he had found a team for next year," he said. "So we are stunned by the news."

In 2003, when he rode for the Quick Step team, Vandenbroucke appeared to be on the way back after a second-place finish in the prestigious Tour of Flanders classic, but he sank into depression the following year.

"Frank had perhaps too much talent and a slightly weak character," said all-time great Eddy Merckx.

Le Soir newspaper called him cycling's "enfant terrible ... the James Dean of his generation ... an accursed star impossible to seize".

"An exceptional champion, probably the finest Belgian cyclist since Eddy Merckx, Frank Vandenbroucke lived too fast, without noticing it, on the inebriety of success."

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