Patrick Sercu 1944 – 2019

 

Patrick Sercu died on April 19, 2019 at the age of 75. He was born into a Belgian cycling family headed by his professional cyclist father Albert Sercu. Patrick’s career started with Bertin-Porter 39, following his father on the team. In 1964, Patrick won the Olympic Gold medal in the 1 km time trial at the Tokyo Olympics giving Bertin the right to put World Champion bands on their head tube decals. Thereafter, he raced professionally for multiple teams on both track (3 World Sprint titles) and road (multiple TdF and Giro stage wins) and became the best Six Day rider in history (88 victories). After his competitive career ended he became an organizer of European Six Day events such as the Six Days of Ghent. He is survived by his son, Christophe, a professional cycling team manager.

 

 

 

A BIG Bertin, continued

 

Back on March 1st, I posted about a 70 cm tall Bertin C 34 bought at a yard sale in Arizona. Todd brought it home, cleaned, lubed tuned and adjusted it and added new tan bar tape and a matching saddle.  The original as found appearance is below:

 

 

Since Todd has completed his improvements to the bike it looks like this:

 

 

Now that the changes are complete, Todd left me the following opinion about the “new” bike:  “… I really love that bike. I have taken short little rides here and there … It’s super smooth and solid though.” Just what one would expect of a Bertin, I should think.

Bertin and Barry Hoban

For a long period, post WW II, Cycles Bertin ran regional development or farm teams with promising riders then being taken on by the larger national and international cycling professional squads just as Peugeot did with ACBB. Clearly indicated in the 1972 Bertin catalog that I have, is the information that a Bertin team jersey was included with your C 34, C 35 or C 37 racing bike purchase. You were expected to use it and could receive sponsorship money at the end of the season if you got good results with the possibility of turning pro if you had done really well.

During this time, Bertin sponsored two regional clubs, one in Douai, about 25 km northeast of Arras and the other, near Bethune, in the town of Lapugnoy which was located about 32 km northwest of Arras. These teams were sponsored by Bertin and  Porter 39, a regional brewer of beer until they were bought out by Heiniken. The classic red, white and black racing jerseys were worn by many amateur and semi-professional French and Belgian cyclists and by some notable riders such as Albert Sercu, his son Patrick Sercu, British Road Champion Albert Hitchen and by Barry Hoban as he began his climb into the professional peloton. It was the Bertin – Porter 39 team in Lapugnoy that Barry Hoban would initially ride for.  The preceding details are all very much a backgrounder for a review of an autobiography by Barry Hoban written in 2015 called Vas-y-Barry!  In it, Hoban along with Chris Sidwells, narrates the details of what it was like to be one of the first post-War English speaking riders to successfully break into professional cycling’s continental ranks.

The book itself is a high quality perfect bound paperback with a high gloss cover and back. Its ISBN is 978-0-9932501-0-1 and is published by The Pedal Press. It is a decent size handful, 15 cm wide, 21 cm long and 1.5 cm thick and cost UK Pounds 19.95. It is 207 pages in length, has 13 chapters and has 1 insert of black and white photos from Hoban’s early career with a second insert of black and white and colour photos of the latter part. There are 8 pages in each photographic section. The book’s chapters are arranged chronologically, starting from the early days of Barry Hoban’s introduction to cycle racing in Yorkshire to his Ron Kitching initiated introduction to Andre Bertin. He was eventually hired on by Mercier where he had a long career and the book goes on to describe his Tour de France stage wins and the various Classic races he competed in. There is a concluding chapter in which Hoban’s post racing life after 1980 is described. He then worked for Coventry Eagle and promoted a Barry Hoban line of bikes for them as well.

What is really interesting in the book are Hoban’s assessments of the races he rode, his tactics and his insights into the strengths and vulnerabilities of his competitors like Jacques Anquetil, Rudy Altig and Eddy Merckx. This is a book written by one of the pro peloton’s hard men and that makes it into a wonderfully informative and enlightening read. Highly recommended.

 

A BIG Bertin!

Bertin had a habit of filling market niches which other builders thought too inconsequential to address. One good example of this was the amateur/entry-level C 56 track bike which it offered with quality tubing and high quality equipment. They also offered the C 33 road bike with 650A wheels sized  proportionally to the frameset. Then, they added the C 32 with a 700C wheelset. Obviously, Andre Bertin didn’t flinch from providing properly sized and equipped bicycles to those at either end of the frame size Bell Curve. Far too frequently, if you were really short or really tall, you were really out of luck with finding an affordable production frameset or bike.

The typical production range for Bertin bikes was from 52 to 64 cm in frame size. However, they also offered the C 32 in 48 cm and the C 32 in 49 cm and they also offered a unique C 34.

A little background is in order. Todd, a reader on this blog, was on his way from his home in Nevada to Phoenix, Arizona and he stopped in Wickenburg, Arizona while on his way. He checked out a yard sale during his visit and $80 later, he was the surprised and proud owner of this:

Obviously, Todd is a tall guy, but I was amazed to see a standard production offering from Bertin in such a large size. The early 70s Bertin C 34 he took with him that day was remarkably “production” looking. The saddle had been changed as had the Shimano Crane GS rear derailleur to work on a larger rear freewheel but, in the main, it was as built.

It had the look and many of the features of a C 34 such as the Durifort fork decal and Mafac brake one would expect:

As well, the period correct Simplex Prestige front derailleur looked right at home as did the 700C wheels:

Classic Mafac half hooded brake levers? Check:

What is not seen, however, is the usual Vitus Durifort frame sticker on the seat tube. This is probably due to the fact tubing manufacturers did not draw tubing beyond the typical 64 cm frame size offered in production models. So Todd has a unique, production model derivative with a loooong, unidentified seat tube but a truly unique ride.

 

 

Carre Bertin C 37

Original Bertin Factory Building

Back in February, March and April of 2016 I wrote about the intersection of Bernard Carre’s and Andre Bertin’s businesses. In 1973, a disastrous factory fire destroyed the original post WW II factory. This was ill timed indeed because 1973 was the peak of the 1970s bike boom around the world but especially in North America and manufacturers were on track to sell 15 million bicycles that year. It was a terrible time to be without a production facility.  It would take

New Factory 1973

a year to construct a new factory and resume in-house bicycle production. Details are found in the previous articles linked at the start of this post but the short-term required Bertin to use contract builders for the mass market bikes. For the elite C 37, Bernard Carre’s production shop was contracted to build the elite model for amateur racers and the semi-professional Bertin  team. At the time, I was restoring my own Carre Bertin C 37 and was surprised by the fact that I was only ever able to find owners and examples from North America for this unique, stop-gap model that existed only for the one year of 1973. It appeared that the Carre Bertin C 37 was a North America model only.

However, I was contacted in September, 2018 by Kevin R. who lives and writes in Northern France. He had purchased a couple of Bertins in a “vide grenier” or boot sale. He had asked for help in doing an ID for the models which I was glad to do. Significantly, he believed that one of the bikes was a Carre Bertin C 37. He was right. His 58 cm frameset had all the classic Carre identifiers:

 

Drive Side Profile

 

Prugnat 62/S Lugs, Wagner DP Crown

 

Leaf Stay Caps, Brazed-on Bolt Ears

 

Campagnolo Forged Dropouts with Adjusters and Fish Mouth Tube Ends

 

Frame Size Designation

 

Diamond Brake Bridge Reinforcements

 

Obviously, this Carre Bertin C 37 discovery in Northern France demonstrates that Bernard Carre built this model for wherever Cycles Andre Bertin  needed to sell a top end production bike in what would otherwise would have been a disastrous year.