Belgian cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke has died at the age of 34 after he was found dead in his hotel room while on holiday in Senegal, Belgian media have reported. The cause of death has not yet been established but initial reports indicate that the 34-year-old died of a blood clot in the lung.
Frank Vandenbroucke, known as VDB, made his professional debut in 1994 and recorded an impressive 51 victories, including his career highlight, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic in 1999, a year in which he also won two stages of the Spanish Vuelta.
Laurent De Backer, head of the Belgian cycling federation, said of the news: "An athlete with a brilliant but too short career has left us."
Although regarded as one of his nation's greatest talents, his racing career was marred by drugs and personal problems.
Since the Nineties, troubled star Vandenbroucke had suffered from depression and tried to commit suicide two years ago after his wife said she was divorcing him.
And in 2002, Vandenbroucke was twice stopped by police and discovered to be under the influence of alcohol at the wheel of a car. In another incident that year, a police search at his home uncovered a large quantity of doping substances.
In 2003, when he rode for the Quick Step team, Vandenbroucke appeared on the way back after a second place finish in the prestigious Tour of Flanders classic.
But although he had attempted several comebacks to professional cycling in recent years, he could not regain the form that saw him as a major force in cycling a decade ago and sunk back into depression. He was eager to resume racing next year, but could not find a team.