Remco Evenepoel turned 24 on Jan. 25, 2024, and we put the palmares - up to the 24th birthday - of the greatest riders of various eras side by side. We now come to Frank Vandenbroucke, who takes ninth place in our ranking.

First name: Frank
Last name: Vandenbroucke
Nationality: Belgium
Age: died on 12-10-2009 – 34 years old
Date of birth: 06-11-1974
Place of birth: Mouscron, Belgium
Place of death Sali (Thies), Senegal
Nicknames: Il Bambino d’oro: Because of his unlikely youthful talent, VDB

A name with golden edges, but with a life of very sharp edges. A rider who could captivate the entire international cycling public in an unseen way. Without a doubt one of the greatest talents ever in cycling. A talent that relied on some very fragile legs that eventually could not bear the weight of success and broke off one by one.

In 1994, Vandenbroucke became a professional cyclist with the Lotto team where his uncle Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke ruled the roost. But soon there was noise between Frank and the team management and he moved to the Mapei team. VDB experienced his best years between 1995 and 1999. So we can say without equivocation that Frank was an early bloomer with a short track record and a woeful end. That Frank finishes in place nine in our ranking is the best proof of how fleeting success in a cycling career (sports career) can be.

Pauwels and Vandenbroucke (right)

Between the ages of 21 and 24, Frank’s wins included the Tour of the Mediterranean, the Scheldeprijs, Ghent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Galicia and Paris-Nice in the service of Mapei. But controversy was never far away and in 1999 he moved to France’s Cofidis. Here he had his best year. He won the Omloop Het Volk, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and two stages in the Tour of Spain, where he also won the points classification. Each time he won in a great way. For example, before the start of Liège-Bastogne-Liège he even predicted the exact place where he would attack and ride everyone home. He kept his word and on La Redoute rode his last opponent Bartoli loose from the wheel. With a great demarrage, his rival but also friend Michele was sent back to Tuscany.

Tragic end

From 2000 it was one big drama in Vandenbroucke’s life. Doping and love troubles, alcohol and drug addiction, lawsuits, depression and even a suicide attempt… There was no more top performance and things went from bad to worse. On Oct. 12, 2009, Vandenbroucke died of a pulmonary embolism while on vacation in Senegal. He died in the La Maison Bleue inn three kilometers from his hotel. He had been out with a Senegalese prostitute that night. The woman was arrested, but stated that Vandenbroucke was still alive when she left him.


Patrick Van Gansen

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