VDB has a posse

The year was 1998. I was 28 years old, a handful of years out of college, and working in a bike shop as a mechanic. The woman who was to become my wife and I lived with our two dogs in a nice little three bedroom ranch house we bought in Tempe, Arizona. I was as deep into cycling as anyone could be. 1998 might seem like a long time to some of the younger readers. But, I started drunkcyclist just two years later, in September of 2000.

I first heard of Frank Vandenbroucke in a magazine called Cycle Sport. I was a subcriber to at the time. This was at the dawn of internet based cycling coverage. However, I did not acquire a home computer and internet access until the Spring of 2000. This was at the end of the print era of my life, although I did not know it at the time. It is strange to reflect upon now. We live in a very different world these days.

This young man they called VDB was setting the world in fire. He took the 1998 Paris–Nice in fine form, while riding for Mapei-GB. Which was, of course, about the coolest god damn bike team on the planet at the time. It was fantastic. You couldn’t look more pro than VDB.

VDB at Paris-Nice.

Image source: http://photos.grahamwatson.com/Print-Gallery/Frank-Vandenbroucke/16596146_RVWwpH/1250517894_7qpJr#!i=1250517894&k=7qpJr.

Then came the Spring of 1999. He now rode for Cofidis, another totally baller squad. Liege-Bastogne-Liege was the race, La Redoute the climb.

Michel Bartoli had taken the top spot in 1997 and ’98. It was his race to lose.

Bartoli showed his superiority over VDB, et al., on La Redoute in 1998:

VDB and Bartoli at Liège–Bastogne–Liège.

Image source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/photos/frank-vandenbrouckes-life-in-pictures/91462.

The next year, VDB had so much swag that in “the media interviews prior to the Liege-Bastogne-Liege, he announced that he would attack on the climb to the Côte de la Redoute and nobody would be able to follow him.” http://sustainable-spain.com/tag/frank-vandenbroucke/.

Big baller. Shot caller.

Everyone knew what he wanted to do. And, when the moment came, none could do a damn thing about it. Bartoli tried. But for him, it was the way of the cross.

Video of the 1999 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, beginning with the climb of La Redoute:

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By that fall in the Vuelta, VDB was on fire. En fuego. He went to the event only to find some form for the upcoming World Championships. He was going so well, he figured he may as well stay around for the finish in Milan.

Man, he made it look easy. Such was the class that he had.

I cannot say it any better than this: “Vandenbroucke ravages the peloton in Navalmoral (second category climb), on the way to Ávila”:

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He went into the World Championship Road Race as a favorite. If you want to see what pro looks like, just look at VDB in that race. An early crash led to two broken wrists. He still finished 7th.

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After his victory in Liege, they said he was the Heir Apparent. They said he was God.

He was, of course, neither. He was a man. And man has failings. The flesh is weak, it seems.

That was to be the high-water mark of his career. Sadly, it just slipped away from him, bit by bit. He switched teams, year after year, always with the promise of improvement. But, trouble always followed quick behind. He then became l’enfant terrible.

His career began unravelling in summer 1999, when he was detained by French police in one of the many drugs cases that followed Festina. He was banned for two years, and then came the first of a series of comebacks that followed a depressingly familiar pattern: each time, he would declare he was back on the rails. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/oct/13/frank-vandenbroucke-death-cycling.

2003 was a stand out. He looked great, just great. I thought he was back.

2003 Ronde van Vlaanderen

And, lastely, he had been called the James Dean of his generation. The difference being Mr. Dean went out on top of his game, rather than long after he had become irrelevant.

There is, no surprise, a VDB autobiography. I will have to wait for an English translation. I am, unfortunatly, only barely competent in my native tongue.

Selected palmarès here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Vandenbroucke_(cyclist)#Selected_victories.

More pics: http://photos.grahamwatson.com/Print-Gallery/Frank-Vandenbroucke/16596146_RVWwpH/1250517894_7qpJr#!i=1250517570&k=SdVeF.

Erik M. sent me this last spring:

Taken in Erpe-Mere Belgium after the UCI womens race. He still has a posse

VBD. Forever.

God komt terug thuis.

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I asked Snakehawk if he could put together a graphic based on the Andre the Giant Has a Posse. He sent me this:

VDB.

PDF you may download and do with as you please here: http://www.vdbhasaposse.com/. (url is a redirect right back here to www.drunkcyclist.com)

That’s why VDB has a posse.

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About big jonny

The man, the legend. The guy who started it all back in the Year of Our Lord Beer, 2000, with a couple of pages worth of idiotic ranting hardcoded on some random porn site that would host anything you uploaded, a book called HTML for Dummies (which was completely appropriate), a bad attitude (which hasn’t much changed), and a Dell desktop running Win95 with 64 mgs of ram and a six gig hard drive. Those were the days. Then he went to law school. Go figure. Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

29 thoughts on “VDB has a posse

  1. Dear Frank Vandenbrouke,

    I was a loyal member of your posse, and I will miss you. You were my rider. You were the one I wanted to see in the break away. Your courage and willingness to suffer inspired me, and your inability to live outside of that suffering broke my heart.

    You were a cheater. There is no denying that. You doped, both for performance and for absolution. Personally, I don’t blame you for seeking glory, and neither do I blame you for chasing oblivion. I spend the better part of each and every day doing both. I don’t know what is worse. Feeling the pain… Or feeling nothing… If I could take a drug that would make me write like Samuel Beckett, I’d do it. I’d do it no matter what it cost me.

    We asked you and the rest of the peloton to do the impossible. We asked that you not only ride 200 kilometers a day with your ass up and your head down, but we demanded that you do it without weakness, without faltering and without complaint, day after day, year after year. We asked that you do it for our pleasure, and for our entertainment, and when you buckled under the pressure, when you gave in and used drugs to improve both your ability to recover and your ability to perform, we crucified you.

    In the end, I don’t think it was the drugs that made us turn on you… The cycling world is full of heroes that use dope. It’s not the cheating that bothers us. What bothers us is that you got caught.

    Your wife left you. You got depressed. You drank too much. You took drugs, and now you’re dead. I, for one, think the world is a poorer place for it. Rest in peace Frank. I’m drinking whiskey tonight in your memory.

    Punk rock is as punk rock does,

    Gypsy

    (via http://www.allhailtheblackmarket.com/2009/10/so_much_stuff_is_coming_up_so.html)

  2. Excellent post BJ; thanks.

    I remember that time well, (despite the daily killing of millions of brain cells). It was pre-internet for me as well; I had to get my Euro fix from my Velo-News subscription (before they stopped actually practicing cycling journalism & went straight to cross-country skiing training & advertising). It was indeed a magical time to be a bike freak. The shop I where I was employed @ the time was a Colnago dealership; EVERYONE wanted that Mapei team paint. That kit defined PRO.

    So fucking sad how he ended up. He had it all.
    HE WAS A FUCKING BALLER.

    R.I.P.

    And before all the “he was just another fucking doper” douchebags show up, I’ll just add that I couldn’t give a screaming fuck about that. At that time in pro cycling, it was a pretty even playing field; & he still kicked ass against the best. When they’re ALL clean, then get back to me.

    So fuck off.

  3. The guilty parties:

    - UCI
    - Media who elevate some to sainthood and denigrate others to pariahs to sell papers
    - The old guard of DS’s and soigneirs who encourage and facilitate doping
    - Corrupt “doctors” who assist in this dangerous practice
    - Doping apologists
    - Those with knowledge of dishonesty and malpractice who remain silent
    - fickle fans who make unreasonable demands of their latest “hero” and – cruelly reject him when he proves to be human
    - Riders who cynically “raise the bar” as far as doping and dishonesty is concerned for their own glory and financial gain, and set the example for their peers to follow
    - Those who cynically invest their integrity in charitable causes and hide behind the suffering of others to protect their reputation and fend off accusations.
    - Riders who deny there is any sort of problem
    - All those involved in maintaining omerta
    - Any idiot who speaks of “one bad apple” etc
    - Ignorant observers who in their misplaced desire to affirm their hero worship for one rider seek to sweep the cancer ravaging our sport under the carpet

    Blood on their hands.

    Marco, VDB, Jimenez, Luis Ocaña, Thierry Claveyrolat….

    I am worried this lost will keep growing. I know of several more “big names” whose untimely passing would not surprise me at all.

  4. got this in my inbox from Doug

    “I had an amazing opportunity to see the Ronde this year and this was in some family’s yard just before the Kwaremont climb, just before it gets fucking nuts. It’s like people in the US having a Packers flag hanging off the porch, except it’s more awesomer.”

  5. Cupcake, are you the commentor “exprocyclist” from 2009 on the guardian.co.uk article on VDB’s death, linked on this page? If not, you left out some quotation marks, and some credit.

  6. @ Loren I am not “exprocyclist”, my bad for not citing. I sure like the points he made though..

    exprocyclist. (2009, October 13). Death of frank vandenbroucke a stark reminder of cycling’s dark side. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/oct/13/frank-vandenbroucke-death-cycling

    The guilty parties:

    - UCI
    - Media who elevate some to sainthood and denigrate others to pariahs to sell papers
    - The old guard of DS’s and soigneirs who encourage and facilitate doping
    - Corrupt “doctors” who assist in this dangerous practice
    - Doping apologists
    - Those with knowledge of dishonesty and malpractice who remain silent
    - fickle fans who make unreasonable demands of their latest “hero” and – cruelly reject him when he proves to be human
    - Riders who cynically “raise the bar” as far as doping and dishonesty is concerned for their own glory and financial gain, and set the example for their peers to follow
    - Those who cynically invest their integrity in charitable causes and hide behind the suffering of others to protect their reputation and fend off accusations.
    - Riders who deny there is any sort of problem
    - All those involved in maintaining omerta
    - Any idiot who speaks of “one bad apple” etc
    - Ignorant observers who in their misplaced desire to affirm their hero worship for one rider seek to sweep the cancer ravaging our sport under the carpet

    Blood on their hands.

    Marco, VDB, Jimenez, Luis Ocaña, Thierry Claveyrolat….

    I am worried this lost will keep growing. I know of several more “big names” whose untimely passing would not surprise me at all.

  7. …+ 1 gianni…

    …+ 1 gypsy…

    …some guys deserve a posse, some never will…

  8. Absolutely brilliant, Jonny. Bravo!

    VDB was slightly before my time, but damn, I mis il pirata.

  9. If there ever was a Drunk Cyclist hall of fame Frank should have his jersey raised to the rafters ! (Hopefully its the Mapei one)

  10. Damn Johnny, you really said it. I had such a similar experience, I worked in a shop, and was thoroughly inundating myself with all things euro-pro. Both Bartoli and VDB were idols to me and I remember a coworker giving me a hard time b/c I started to rest my forearms across the top of my bars like VDB on long breaks. Ahh to be young and foolish. Too bad I didn’t work at Domenic’s till 2005!

  11. …tighten up those helmet straps, kids…il giro d’italia starts tomorrow…

    …dunno how the tv thing is gonna work out but hopefully we’ll get decent coverage from somebody…

  12. This is how I’ll be getting my fix over the next few weeks:

    http://www.cyclingfans.com/

    I ain’t paying for fancy cable when I can hook the macputer into the tv machine and stream it. (although I must admit that the interwebtardtubes do have an ability to crap out at the most exciting moments, but hell, it’s free)

  13. @bgw & jefe— yeah, the 1% fucking fucks at NBC cut my Universal Sports, so imma have to take a look at the intardweb this time around.

  14. sweet…and bitter sweet reminice…are there really any others that matter???

  15. I just love watching those guys at their best…

    he was just fucking drilling it and guys were just peeling off his wheel….incredible.

  16. Festina, cofidis, mapei…. Strait up gangsters… They created pro cycling for our generation and all were busted for drugs. When you are a rock star you’ll do anything to stay on top.
    If there was magic pill to make your business successful, would you take it?

  17. …yep…i forgot about ‘universal sports network’ so klicked through the channels & low & behold, where i used to watch some good ol’ cx n’ road racing, i’m seeing a non-stick cookware infomercial just about the time i should be seeing some pink ass giro…

    …i got channels where i can watch philipino tv, chinese tv, japanese tv, bunches of mexican & assorted latino tv…shows i’d never watch for 16 different reasons, shows to sell me shit i’d never buy in a million years, irrelevant info shows i don’t give a shit about, relevant info shows i should give a shit about but just don’t right now ‘cuz i got no fucking giro d’italia…

    …but thank you, el jefe…i’ll give universal a shot on the ‘puter…

  18. …nope, el jefe…universal sports on-line wants money if i wanna watch the giro on the dell & the quality just isn’t anywhere near to a good tv broadcast…

    …mikey…down here it’s comcast that dropped universal sports channel…it’s amazing how much comcast wants over the course of a year to have availability to just a ton of shit that means nothing to me but without having all the bullshit, you get virtually nothing you want…

    …if in reality “…the customer is always right…” then why aren’t we able to customize & put a small bundle of channels together that are relevant to ‘our’ individual needs & pay a decent price for them, instead of being fucking gouged for tons of irrelevant garbage ???…

  19. …thanks, mike…i’ll play around w/ that tomorrow morning & see if i can catch anything live…

    …so, young mr phinney, he of bmc & a chip off the ol’ block, powers to the pink with a prologue itt a 9 full seconds over sky’s geraint thomas…

    …thinking about the win for the kid makes me smile but thinking about his win within the context of his mom & dad, folks who i’ve seen race ‘in their day’ & perhaps particularly in light of davis’s struggles, almost brings a tear to my eye…

    …& i know the kid is already a world champion on the track but this, man, this is the fucking giro d’italia…

  20. …hey, wait…there must be some kinda mistake…all the ‘experts’ here said he was too plump & roly poly, too slow & laughable & couldn’t pull this off without an 18 man lead out train to deposit him to the doorstep…

    …i guess every bit of that theory got laid to rest today…

    …just sayin’…

  21. I cannot believe the narrow roads that they use as finishes in Italy. Yikes. The last 20K was full of roundabouts and islands, and caused a couple crashes. And they do it at nearly 60kph. Scary.

  22. …noticed that myself, el jefe…ton of guys furniture hoppin’ on the run-in…

    …surprisingly nbc sports had an hour show on todays stage but i dunno how they’ll follow-up during the week…they’re doing a tour of california warmup @ 1:00pm pst on the old vs channel…

    …they will be giving the tour de france good coverage apparently…

    …while i am an admitted cavendish fan, i gotta give props to american guys like farrar & phinney…when interviewed, they come across as totally straight up, genuine human beings…most of the usa dudes are that way nowadays…

  23. …oh & by the way, they’re actually in denmark through tomorrows stage, then they drop down to the boot…

  24. Doh! I had forgotten that. It holds true for many of the euro races, though. I’m continually baffled by the roads they route a 200 person field on.