Note: My letter to The VeloNews Editor appears at bottom of post.
Wrote The Antwerp Gazette, in covering VDB:
“After a thrilling first career section sank the drop in a pool of scandals. A career as a yo-yo, a career highs with lows alternated. You did Vdb but on a bike to see the words are pure class in the mouth. Until the last years he found peace with himself again. As if it was so destined, he had to die as he lived. The rider who had cut short his talent. The man, who as a boy, was already a three letter word that world need no further explanation: VDB. Just 35 and not all killed in the field of honor. The question is: for whom?”
Maar je hoefde Vdb maar op een fiets te zien zitten om de woorden pure klasse in de mond te nemen. Pas het jongste jaar vond hij weer rust en vrede met zichzelf. Alsof het zo was voorbestemd, moest hij sterven zoals hij geleefd had. De renner die zijn talent kort liet knippen. De man die als jongen al een drieletterwoord werd dat wereldwijd geen verdere uitleg behoefde: Vdb. Net geen 35 en al gesneuveld op het veld van eer. De vraag is alleen: voor wie?
Le Soir, the Belgian newspaper, described Vandenbroucke as “an exceptional champion, probably the finest Belgian cyclist since Eddy Merckx, Frank Vandenbroucke lived too fast, without noticing it, on the inebriation of success.”
As with the death of the 1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani – found dead in similar circumstances in February 2004 – Vandenbroucke’s death was shocking, but not surprising, such has been the self-destructive trail he has blazed since he was first busted for drug-taking 10 years ago. His uncle Jean-Luc, who managed him when he turned professional in 1994, summed up the feelings of many in the milieu: “a half-surprise, unfortunately”.
VDB…we never knew you…or did we? Who were you? I don’t know, but I’ll always choose to remember you as a winner, regardless of what was in the tank.
Letter to The VeloNews Editor:
I thought I was done with this post, but I’m not. VeloNews.com couldn’t even be bothered to mention the fact that VDB’s funeral took place today. Yet when he was an up-and-coming star they were happy to write about him. With respect to the media, I’m a cynic, but to not even mention the funeral of Frank Vandenbroucke is beyond cynical and poor journalism. It’s shameful and foul, and requires that I write their “Editor” and call them on it…
I’m writing you on Saturday, October 24, 2009, at approximately 6:45PM EST to enquire as to why you’ve thus far failed to publish a report on (or even mention) the funeral of Frank Vandenbroucke, which was held today in Ploegsteert, Belgium. Elsewhere, we learn that VDB’s funeral was attended by a veritable who’s-who of the Belgian cycling world – Patrick Lefevere, Wilfried Peeters, Johan Museeuw, Leif Hoste and Peter Van Petegem were all in attendance, while VDB’s former Cofidis teammate Nico Mattan acted as a pallbearer. But this doesn’t even rate a mention on VeloNews.com?
In VeloNews Volume 27, Number 5, March 30, 1998, the headlines on the front cover above the VN masthead include “VDB’s Paris-Nice.” Inside, coverage of the “Race to the Sun” begins on page 12, with a half-page color photo of VDB, captioned, “INTO THE SPOTLIGHT Frank Vandenbroucke emerged from a background of promise, through the mist on the Col de la République, to clinch his first major stage race victory in Paris-Nice.” The article itself is titled “Belgium’s new star * Vandenbroucke* unbeatable in Race to the Sun.”
Yet today, eleven years since that first historic win by VDB – one that you were all too eager to cover at the time – you can’t manifest the common decency and respect to mention somewhere on your website that Vandenbroucke the man was finally at peace? Steve Hood wrote that Paris-Nice article for VeloNews, but in death VDB only merited a translated version of an Agence France Presse wire story on 12 October? Same for the follow-up reports on the cause of his untimely, tragic and senseless death – bland wire pieces?
Eleven years ago you dedicated hundreds of words to Vandenbroucke’s win. And yet today, you can’t even be bothered to mention that the man you then-hailed as “Belgium’s New Star” had finally been laid to rest, the weight of the hope of an entire nation finally off of his shoulders?