Troubled Belgian cyclist Vandenbroucke dead at 34

BRUSSELS: Belgian cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke has died at the age of 34, a source close to the racer told AFP.

The source did not speculate on the cause of death, saying only his body was found in a Senegalese hotel room where he had been holidaying.

However, Vandenbroucke suffered from depression and tried two years ago to commit suicide after his wife said she was divorcing him.

Belgian media suggested the rider had suffered a pulmonary embolism.

"Sadly this has only partly come as a surprise, for we knew he was not doing too well," said his uncle, former racer Jean-Luc Vandenbroucke.

"He was up and down, both in terms of his health and his morale. He left for Senegal on Sunday."

Frank Vandenbroucke made his professional debut in 1994 and recorded 51 victories, including the 1999 Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic, his career highlight.

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.

However, despite a promising start to the 2004 season, hopes of a sustained comeback were cut short and he sunk further into depression.