2017: A Centenarian Cyclist Pedals His Way to a New World Record

January 4, 2017

Robert Marchand, a 105-year-old French cyclist, established a world record in one-hour track cycling for people in his age group. At the Paris-area indoor track known as the Velodrome National, he completed 92 laps and in the process covered a total of 14 miles (22.6 kilometers). Marchand achieved this record while wearing a purple-and-yellow cycling suit, pink helmet, and yellow glasses. As he finally came to a stop to finish this event, many of those in attendance gave him a standing ovation and started chanting “Robert, Robert!”

Marchand subsequently remarked in an interview, “I did not see the sign warning me I had 10 minutes left. Otherwise, I would have gone faster, I would have posted a better time. I’m now waiting for a rival.”

Marchand had been born on November 26, 1911, in the city and commune of Amiens in northern France. For much of his long life, Marchand had relatively little time for cycling due to work and other priorities. His wide range of jobs included working as a firefighter, gardener, and wine dealer in his native country; a truck driver and sugarcane planter in Venezuela; and a lumberjack in Canada.

Starting in 1978, Marchand took up cycling on more of a full-time basis and with renewed vigor. He continued this activity with great gusto well past his 100th birthday. “I am not here to be a champion,” Marchand asserted after his record-setting accomplishment at the Velodrome National on the first Wednesday of 2017. “I am here to prove that at 105 years old you can still ride a bike.” At that time, he was formally recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest competitive cyclist.  Marchand’s subsequent endeavors on a bicycle included celebrating his 107th   birthday with a 12.4-mile (20-kilometer) ride in the Ardèche region of southeastern France.

Marchand attributed his longevity and remarkable health to adhering to a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables; enjoying just a little meat and coffee; occasionally drinking wine; not smoking at all; going to bed every night at nine o’clock; and exercising an hour a day on a cycling home-trainer. Marchand died in north-central France’s commune of Mitry-Mory on May 22, 2021, at the age of 109.

(The above photo featuring Marchand in the center was taken in 2012.)

Photo Credit: Marcel Segessmann (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Additional information on Robert Marchand and his record-setting cycling achievement in January 2017 is available at https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/04/508213332/105-year-old-cyclist-rides-14-miles-in-an-hour-en-route-to-a-world-record

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