Bjorg Lambrecht, the 22-year-old Belgian talent, died on August 5 during the third stage of the 2019 Tour of Poland as its passed between Bełk and Palowice.
Born on April 2, 1997, he came from a black hole in a cycling-rich country. Those familiar with Knesselare, midway between Bruges and Ghent, cannot recall of many big stars who rode from that village to the top.
Lambrecht did so, or at least was climbing on his way there. In June, while Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) were fighting towards the Critérium du Dauphiné overall win, he was edging his way closer to the eventual white jersey win in the young rider classification.
"The big result was his fourth place in Flèche Wallonne behind Julian Alaphilippe," Bram Vandecapelle, journalist at Het Nieuwsblad, told Cycling Weekly.
"He was Belgium's big talent, the young guys coming: Remco Evenepoel, Jasper Philipsen and Lambrecht. But what set him apart was he was always joking, happy, always pleased to speak to journalists. He'd keep talking and talking even if he had to get to the race start."
Lambrecht leaves behind sister Britt and his parents Anje and Kurt. His mother and father were immediately at their son's side in Poland since they had taken time off to travel to Poland and see him compete in the seven-day WorldTour event.
The race organiser neutralised the fourth stage for Lambrecht, so the cycling community could remember its "forgetful" friend.
Vandecapelle laughed when remembering the last time he spoke with Lambrecht for Belgian's big daily newspaper. As usual, Lambrecht showed up late. He had a way of forgetting appointments and everything else. His team-mates would joke with him when he left he dinner table without his mobile phone.
"He was an an extravert," Vandecapelle said. "It was always fun with him, even if winning or losing – always fun."
More wins were expected. Those looking down the palmarès of Egan Bernal (Ineos) after his 2019 Tour de France victory saw his win in the 2017 Tour de l'Avenir. Lambrecht had placed right behind the Colombian, second at 1-09 minutes, in one of the most prestigious amateur stage races.
Lambrecht, or 'Matchbox' as his team-mates called him, was quick to congratulate Bernal – both 22 years old – on his Tour de France win. And around Belgium, they were taking notice of the Knesselare rider, saying: "Wow, you were second to Bernal in l'Avenir!"
Belgian's long-running Lotto-Soudal team made a big push this April to re-sign Lambrecht for two years. Other teams began to take note after his early season performances and were trying to sway him away. Even at the cost of some others, like Tiesj Benoot who will transfer to Team Sunweb for 2020, Lotto-Soudal wanted to keep Lambrecht around.
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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