Robert Marchand, the cyclist who collected longevity records, dies at 109

His short stature had alienated him from professionalism and it was only after retirement that he rediscovered a taste for cycling.

Marchand, in an image from January 2017.AP

Robert Marchand, considered the oldest cyclist in the world having set several records as a centenary, died early Saturday at the age of 109, in Mitry-Mory, a city on the outskirts of Paris.

In 2018, when asked about the secret of his longevity, he answered with lucid precision: “Do everything, but without abusing anything.” His healthy lifestyle was based on daily exercise, mostly focused on flexibility. He belonged to the Club Cyclos Mitryens and his training focused on the exercise bike, since his hearing loss compromised his outings on the roads.

His short stature, around 1.55 meters, had distanced him at the time from professional cycling and only after retirement did he rediscover his love for cycling. Known for his infectious smile, for years he was a committed member of the French Communist Party and the CGT union.

In January 2018 he had retired after the advice of doctors, who fear for his health, since his tension sometimes shot up on the bicycle. Before that, he had set time records for ages 100 and 105, categories created expressly for him. In January 2017, he achieved a mark of 22,547 kilometers in 60 minutes at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines veldrome, an event broadcast live on several televisions.

Exemplary modesty

Marchand was known for his good humor and modesty, despite the admiration he aroused. He said that with his records he did not want to be considered a champion, but simply to show that with more than 100 years he can continue to do things.

He was born in Amiens on November 26, 1911 and said he remembered how, during the First World War, German troops had occupied his city in the summer of 1914 and how four years later, on November 11, 1918, the bells of the churches announced the armistice that signified the French victory. As a young man he was a high-level gymnast and firefighter in Paris.

Active in the Resistance against the Nazis during World War II, he left France and settled in Venezuela, where he worked in the sugar cane for eight years. Then he also lived in Canada as a logger before returning to France, where he worked in various trades, such as gardener, shoe salesman or wine merchant.

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