Weekly High Five Report: Cycling Centenarian


Robert Marchand wanted to do something for his 100th birthday. A lifelong cyclist, Marchand traveled from his home near Paris to Switzerland to attempt the world hour performance on the center’s velodrome. He rode 24.251 kilometers around an indoor track in 60 minutes to establish the first-ever hour performance in the 100-years-plus category. “I could have gone faster but I didn’t want to,” Marchand, who was given clearance by his cardiologist in France before making the attempt, told reporters at the International Cycling Union (UCI) track in Aigle where he spent a week preparing. “I’m not playing at being a champion,” he said. “I just wanted to do something for my 100th birthday.”

The feat does not threaten the 49.7 km (30.8 miles) achieved by Czech cyclist Ondrej Sosenka in 2005 at the age of 29, but it will be recognised by the UCI in a new over-100s category.

An amateur road racer, Marchand competed in the Bordeaux-Paris race at the age of 90 when he completed the 600 kms in 36 hours.

In the last few years, he has eased off, restricting himself to rides of less than 100 kilometers in a day.

Marchand said his biggest challenge was getting used to riding on a track, something he last did in 1937.

According to an article about the feat in Velo News, Marchand’s success is no secret:

For all his physical exploits, this man of small stature but big personality is obedient and follows medical advice. He has been told not to go raise his pulse over 110, and it is a rule he respects with reverence, for the most part.

“I did climb a steep hill not long ago and went up to 134 but it’s best to avoid that,” he admits with a mischievous chuckle. “But I would be very surprised if I had heart attack,” he offers spontaneously. Marchand’s first ever cardiograph last week revealed that his heart was in excellent condition.

Optimism aside, he knows his limits and remains cautious. “For the last five years I have decided not to go for rides of more than 100km. There is no point going overboard. I want to keep cycling for some time yet.”

These words of wisdom come from a man who last competed in the Bordeaux-Paris race at nearly 90 years of age, completing the 600km in 36 hours.

In addition to filling sportif event results with his name, Marchand has a mountain pass named after him.

What is his secret? How is it possible to be in such frighteningly good physical, and mental, health at 100 years old?

“I’ve never abused anything. I don’t smoke, I never drank much. The only thing I did in excess was work. I retired at 89 years old.”

“But basically, I am like everybody,” said Marchand. “I am lucky that I haven’t had any major health problems. My advice to anyone, young or old, is to keep moving. I do ‘physical culture’ every day. It works out my whole body and keeps me supple. Some people when they reach 80 years old, start playing cards and they stay immobile. Not me. I’ve never been able to keep still.”

I can only hope that I’m able to continue skiing at 100. Even if it is inside.

Bravo Marchand.

5 responses »

  1. Wow! I bet he didn’t spend his work life in front of a computer either. I’m going to take a break now and do some tai ji! thanks for posting this.

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