It’s a well-earned rest, although he’ll continue to cycle for pleasure. At 106 years of age, French rider Robert Marchand has ended his competitive career, with a friend saying that he will no longer seek to set new records.
The rider stunned the world of cycling in February 2012 when he targeted a new world record for the over 100 age group. Although no others had set such a mark – for obvious reasons – he impressed by covering 24.250 kilometres (15.068 miles).
Just under two years later he improved on this, travelling 26.927 kilometres (16.732 miles) in 60 minutes.
In between those two efforts, he went to the Parc de la Tête d’Or Velodrome in Lyon in September 2013 and rode 300 laps, totalling 100 kilometres. He covered that distance in a remarkable four hours 17 minutes 27 seconds, again setting a new standard.
Speaking afterwards, he played down his achievement. “I feel like a guy who is a hundred years old, I feel good. I’m an ordinary guy,” he said, showing considerable modesty. “I rode a bike for 52 years, it is not new today.”
Marchand did the hour record again in January of last year, covering 22.547 kilometres (14.010 miles) and setting a new mark for those of 105 years of age and over. Then, last August, he earned a world championship title in the same age bracket.
Stretching and doing resistance exercises each day plus riding his indoor trainer, Marchand maintained a level of fitness which would put people far younger to shame. He credited a diet consisting of a lot of fruit and vegetables, a small amount of meat, “not too much coffee”, “no cigarettes” and “very little alcohol” and sport as being elements of his longevity.
Now, according to AFP, his friend and neighbour Christian Bouchard said that he has decided to limit things somewhat.
“His doctors no longer want him to make great efforts,” he stated on Tuesday, thus confirming a story in the La Marne newspaper. “[But] he already has everything.”
However according to Alain Gautheron, the president of his Cyclos mytriens club de Mitry-Mory, where Marchand has a licence, he’ll keep pedalling. Doing another record “would cause him to undergo a lot of pressure, many constraints,” he explained. “If he pedals, he has to do it in relaxation, for pure pleasure. It’s more reasonable.”
Born in 1911, Marchand started cycling at 14 years of age, then later left France and lived in Canada and Venezuela. He worked as a fireman, market gardener, show salesman and wine dealer, and competed as an amateur boxer.
He returned to cycling in 1978 at 67 years of age, building up the distances and training with riders who were far younger than he was.
Marchand finally retired from work at 89 years of age. Around that time, he rode the famous Bordeaux-Paris event, covering the 600 kilometres in 36 hours.
In February 2012 he said that he had been curtailing his rides somewhat. “For the last five years I have decided not to go for rides of more than 100km,” the-then 100-year-old-rider stated.
“There is no point going overboard. I want to keep cycling for some time yet.”
Six years later, he’s still on his bike. Giving up record attempts may keep him out of the headlines, but the Guinness Book of Record’s oldest cyclist on earth will continue turning the pedals and setting a stunning example.
Video: Robert Marchand on French television in 2012, having set his first hour record at 100 years of age.