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When cycling’s tragic hero, Frank Vandenbroucke, stunned the world with a win at Liège

The Belgian star was one of the greatest

Photo by: Sirotti

The story of Frank Vandenbroucke is one of cycling’s saddest tales. The Belgian was one of the sport’s greatest hopes, but his career was plagued by depression and addiction. The cyclist suffered from mental illness his entire career, and attempted suicide on multiple occasions. FVDB died as a result pulmonary embolism in 2009, that many suspected was a result of drugs.

In 1999, Vandenbroucke had already impressed in the spring classics, living up to the hype that so many Belgian cycling fans had put on him. He’d been second at the Tour of Flanders and seventh at Paris Roubaix, but had not yet won a Monument.

That would change on April 18, 1999.

French rider Laurent Jalabert would launch solo with 94 km to go, but would be caught with just 50 km to go. On the famous La Redoute climb, Vandenbroucke and Michele Bartoli would duel each other the entire way.

Bartoli, had won the race twice before, and had taken the Flèche Wallonne just days before and was clearly on-form.

After attacking each other up the climb, both on the drops, Vandenbroucke would gain time on the steeper upper sections of the climb putting time on Dutch riders Michael Boogerd and Michael Boogerd, Maarten den Bakker, as well as Bartoli.

The Belgian would be caught and a small group of riders formed with all the big names at the time, including Jalabert, Boogerd and Paolo Bettini.

Boogerd would make a move on the final climb, but he was quickly counter attacked by Vandenbroucke, who then soloed to a beautiful victory.

Sadly, Vandenbroucke’s first big Classics win would be his only.

His life would slowly spiral as his addiction worsened. His usage of cocaine, amphetamines, and alcohol would increase with his fame.

The rider’s career became fodder for the Belgian tabloids, and he would never be the same cyclist again.

Take a moment to watch Frank Vandenbroucke at his best, winning one of the hardest one-day races in cycling.