Cycling: 105-year-old cycles into history

French cycling enthusiast Robert Marchand, 105, covering 22.528km in an hour at a velodrome in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, near Paris.
French cycling enthusiast Robert Marchand, 105, covering 22.528km in an hour at a velodrome in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, near Paris.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

PARIS • A French centenarian, Robert Marchand, made cycling history on Wednesday by covering 22.528km in one hour on a track near Paris at the age of 105.

He was cheered on by hundreds of fans as he rode round the velodrome at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, clad in yellow and blue with the number 105 on his back.

However, he fell short of his own previous best of 26.927km in the over-100s category, which he set in 2014 at the age of 102 years old.

Nevertheless, the new over-105s category had been specially created for him to reflect the magnitude of his feat.

Marchand beamed at his success after his one-man race was over, telling journalists he could have done better.

"I didn't see the notice telling me I had 10 minutes left," he said. "If I had, I would have been a bit quicker. I would have done better."

He said he would celebrate by having "a bite to eat with all my pals".

He was philosophical when asked if he would turn out again on the track in two years time.

"You are nine months in the making, but it takes you only 30 seconds to drop dead," he said.

Marchand was born in Amiens, near the frontline of the first world war, three years before its outbreak. He worked as a firefighter in later life, before going to live in Venezuela and Canada.

Back in France in the 1960s, he made a living through various jobs that left him with no time to practise sports. He was 68 when he began a series of cycling feats.

He trained for six months for his performance on Wednesday.

While he is not making plans for the future, his coach, Gerard Mistler, said he would not be surprised to see him continue cycling.

"Setting goals for himself is part of his personality," he said. "If he tells me he wants to improve his record, I'll be game. Robert is a great example for all of us."

THE GUARDIAN, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 06, 2017, with the headline '105-year-old cycles into history'. Print Edition | Subscribe