Belgian cycling legend Patrick Sercu has died at the age of 74, VTM reported on Friday. Sercu is considered the greatest track cyclist of the past century, racking up 1,206 victories, including 168 on the road. He won Olympic gold in the flying-start kilometre at the 1964 Tokyo Games.
Sercu's son Christophe explained, "His health had been unstable for several years and had deteriorated sharply in recent weeks. The funeral will take place in a very limited circle."
Sercu is an icon in Belgium, where he has been a director of the Six Days of Gent, a race he won eleven times. He was a patron of track cycling, having won 83 different Six Day races, pairing with the likes of Eddy Merckx, with whom he won 15, Peter Post, Roger de Vlaeminck, and Francesco Moser, among others.
In addition to three track world titles, Sercu won the green jersey in the 1974 Tour de France and a stage in the 1976 Giro d'Italia.
In an interview with Rouleur magazine earlier this year, Sercu recalled his lengthy career on the track and the road, racing non-stop year-round. In the winters, he initiated a number of road riders into the Six Day scene, including Roger De Vlaeminck.
"This happened – an outstanding road rider who had had recent success would be brought in by a promoter as a draw. It was good for the event. I did the same for Francesco Moser and Freddy Martens but it was very hard work for me – teaching them, coaching them through. I was the number one of the team so they arrived, learned the track a little bit and then straight into the race," Sercu said.
"My best partner was Eddy [Merckx]. Of course, all partnerships start as commercial arrangements – the promoter puts the teams together, to get the best balance for the competition on the track. I raced with a lot of good racers, the best.
"Eddy and I complemented each other. I was the speed, he was the strength and we were friends. That was very important. And he was always very motivated for the win. Every time. As was I."
Merckx told Sporza.be on Friday, "Patrick was a fantastic guy, a good man. He was a friend I've known since I was sixteen or seventeen, it's a big loss to me."