The authorities are now awaiting the results of toxicology tests to show the level of alcohol and drugs in Vandenbroucke’s body at the time of death. The Dakar coroner declared last week that he did not have the necessary resources to carry out the tests, suggesting that the body might be released quickly to return to Belgium for more lab work. But he did say there was no trace of alcohol found, which is directly contradicted by at least two witness statements, including that of Polazzi, who was drinking with him all evening. The coroner also confirmed the existence of the pulmonary embolism, which, together with a “pre-existing heart condition”, was the proximate cause of death.
That isn’t the part that killed me. The quotes at the end of the piece did.
“I often asked him how he was, and the answer was always ‘everything is fine’. I think things were better than they had been, say, two years ago, but was he happy? No, Frank wasn’t happy.” Clotilde Menu, mother of Frank’s 10-year-old daughter Cameron
“There were signs that things weren’t quite right. The business of not being able to find a team kept eating away at him. And then he went to Senegal, so far away. I couldn’t stop him, but I had a strange feeling about it.” Best friend Nico Mattan
“Sadly this is only a half-surprise. We were prepared for his chaotic lifestyle to come to a bad end.” Uncle Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke, a former top cyclist
“He lived in extremes. Frank was restless, easily bored. He had to go faster, be harder, bigger, tougher.” Manager Paul De Geyter
“He was an enfant terrible, but you forgave him. He was so popular. His death is a sad day for cycling, but my thoughts go out to the family. I still have to process the shock. I’m losing a contemporary but also a real friend.” Former team-mate Johan Museeuw
“God is dead.” Het Laatste Nieuws, referring to Vandenbroucke’s nickname from better days
“I think cycling fans will be overcome with grief. I knew Frank since he was riding with the beginners. Even then he stood out head and shoulders above the rest.” Laurent De Backer, president of the Cycling Federation
“I think that in a country like Belgium, where cycling stars are looked at like gods, people certainly took advantage of him….He was one of those guys who found it hard to make a decision about the best way to go, and he made a few wrong decisions in his career.” Former cyclist, now team director Matthew White
“Nothing suggested that Frank would come to his end so suddenly. It had been hard to get in touch with him lately…He wasn’t struggling, but he was really annoyed by the fact that, despite all the promises, he wasn’t going to find a team.” Psychologist Jef Brouwers, Frank’s therapist since 2001
“Frank died as he lived – not in a normal way. I can’t say I expected it to end this way for Frank, but my wife and I were afraid something might happen to him.” Frank’s father Jean-Jacques Vandenbroucke
“It’s a tragedy. I’m really shocked. 34 is no age to die.” Pro Flemish cyclist Tom Boonen