Known for his frail figure molded in a yellow and purple outfit and his contagious laughter, the dean of cycling Robert Marchand, who died on the night of Friday May 21 to Saturday May 22, at the age of 109, had become a mascot thanks to his super-centenary records.
He who said he did not fear death, only paralysis, obeyed his motto – ” we have to move ! “ – the longest time possible. On November 26, 2018 again, he celebrated his 107th birthday on a bicycle by covering about fifteen kilometers in Ardèche.
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Born on November 26, 1911 in Amiens, Robert Marchand made a name for himself after a century of existence, becoming the first centenarian to tackle speed records on a bicycle.
A great revenge for the one who said to have given up, at the age of 20, a career as a professional cyclist on the advice of the sports community and doctors who doubted his abilities in view of his stature.
A series of records
He had only got on a bike again when he was in his sixties.
Until setting the hour record for over 100 and over 105, and obtaining the title of world champion in road cycling for over 105. Always wearing the yellow and purple jersey of L’Ardéchoise, the popular local race which had made him its mascot.
At each of his outings, the cameras gathered to immortalize this small guy of 1.50 m. Willingly saucy, he delivered without complaining the keys to his longevity: ” Sport “, “Lots of fruits and vegetables”, “Not too much coffee”, “No cigarettes”, “Very little alcohol”.
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On January 4, 2017, for his unprecedented record in the over 105 category, his notoriety convinced some television channels to broadcast his 92 laps live at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines velodrome.
“If you stop, you’re screwed”
The next day, during a photo shoot at AFP’s Paris headquarters, the centenary still managed to carry his bike on one shoulder. And repeated his mantra: “At my age, you should never stop. If you stop, you’re screwed “.
Firefighter, sugar cane planter, wine merchant or market gardener, Robert Marchand worked until an old age. He was also engaged – for a long time, necessarily – with the French Communist Party and the CGT.
After going through the two world wars, the Cold War and years traveling in Venezuela or Canada, he spent the last years of his life in a modest studio in Mitry-Mory, north of Paris.
In front of his visitors, he did not hesitate to swap his corduroy pants for a cyclist’s outfit and to mimic, charentaises on his feet, the flexibility exercises he did every morning.
The most famous licensee of the Cyclos Mitryens club, he mainly trained on his stationary bike to escape the frost and road traffic – his hearing loss making outdoor trips perilous.
“It would have been a shame if he remained incognito in his apartment in Mitry-Mory while he gives people a lot of joy in life”, noted in 2017 the president of L’Ardéchoise, Gérard Mistler.
“He is a man who has stood the test of time”, greeted at the beginning of this year Charlotte Blandiot-Faride, the PCF mayor of Mitry-Mory, hiring a dean “Very invested, communist militant, who helped to make the city known”.