I also made the mistake of letting Frank Vandenbroucke choose the wine. VDB loved wine, he loved vintages. He never looked at the price. He treated himself - well, the treat was on my newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws - first of all to a Chambolle-Musigny, a delicious red Burgundy. And he then treated himself - or we did - to a Rioja from 1971. 1971 is the year which Nico Mattan was born. He had also joined the company for the interview. If for no other reason than to get VDB to stick to his agreements a little.
So, we drank a 36-year-old Rioja. It cost, brace yourself, €490! That was not easy to explain to the editor. And not because the interview was also accompanied by a sumptuous lunch either. Asparagus, lobster or foie gras as a starter. And then pigeon and rabbit. That's how it was. Frank Vandenbroucke liked to eat in 't Oud Konijntje. He knew the menu like the back of his hand. When we were choosing what to eat he told us the rabbit was delicious. It was absolutely delicious, it was authentic. A sin not to try it. What would it be? "Rabbit for you, Nico?" asked Frank. Nico took the rabbit. 'You, Joeri? My colleague Joeri De Knop took the rabbit. Marc? Rabbit, I said, assertively. And Frank? Frank, he hesitated, thought deeply, and finally ordered: 'Pour moi le pigeon (Pigeon for me).'
Two years later, at the World Championships in Mendrisio, Frank Vandenbroucke and I crossed paths on the way to the press tent. VDB was no racing cyclist. Correction: VDB was always a racing cyclist, in his heart of hearts. But he was a rider without a team. He had travelled to Mendrisio as a columnist for a rival newspaper. You could see how much it hurt him. The press room was not his scene. On a bike, in the peloton, that is where he wanted to be. ‘Marc, il y a toi et il y a les autres’ (Marc, you are really one of a kind), was how he greeted me.). 'You're a fine one to say that!,' I said, 'there's no one like you either!'.
Frank Vandenbroucke. He had to be in the newspaper every day. That Tuesday afternoon in October 2007, we did indeed hold our best ever interview with him. I am not God, but only for the newspaper. His book was published a few months later.
The bill? The expense account was signed by the sports editor, then by the chief editor and finally approved by the CFO. It was done in ten minutes.