Belgian Serge Baguet survived a career in professional cycling – with a break to roof houses and a return to triumph in the Tour de France – but died due to colon cancer on Thursday (February 9).
The 47-year-old discovered the problem in October 2014 when he urgently attended hospital while on holiday in Spain. He broke the news after surgery.
“They say you should try to check for colon cancer when you’re 55, I’m 45 and have paid the price,” the ex-professional from Letterhoutem, Flanders, said in an interview.
“If you feel something in your stomach or notice something strange in your stool, then get yourself checked immediately.”
Born on August 18, 1969, Baguet followed in his father Roger’s footsteps to become professional rider. After four years without a win, however, he quit and went to roof houses with Roger.
He kept riding and his colleagues thought it only made sense to call him ‘The Roofer’ when he returned to team Lotto in 2001.
He raced with Lotto until 2005 and with Belgium’s other top team, Quick-Step in 2006 and 2007.
The comeback was worth it. ‘The Roofer’ hammered his rivals with two stages in the Ruta del Sol stage race and the Belgian road championships in 2005.
The one that stuck – and many remember on this emotional day – was his Tour de France win in 2001.
On stage 17 to Montluçon, US Postal controlled the group behind and ahead, an escape group broke into pieces. Massimiliano Lelli attacked Jakob Piil and Baguet, but cramped. Baguet, in his red and black Lotto-Adecco jersey, no helmet and sunglasses, sprinted ahead of the two and raised his arms in the air.
His days as a roofer were over. In 2007, 11 years after his first good-bye, he retired. Cancer took hold, however. After a fight, doctors lost hope early this year.
Baguet’s former teams, team-mates, friends and fans took to social media to pay tribute, including Robbie McEwen, Patrick Lefevre, Wilfried Peeters and Lotto-Soudal.