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.


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