The Frenchman Robert Marchand, considered the oldest competitive cyclist in the world after having set several records as a centenary, passed away Friday evening at the age of 109, in the city of Mitry-Mory in the Paris region.
On the advice of doctors, Marchand recently retired from cycling in 2018 at the age of 106 after one last incredible season that saw him win the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships in Albi, France and set a new “hour” world record.
Watched worldwide via a television broadcast in 2017, Marchand set a world record mark of 22.547 kilometers for the classic “hour” time trial on the velodrome de Saint Quentin en Yvelines.
Marchand was known for his humor and modesty. He said that with his records he did not want to be considered a champion, but simply to show that at more than 100 years old one can continue to do things.
He was born in Amiens on 26 November 1911 and remembered how, as a child during World War I, German troops occupied his hometown in the summer of 1914 and how four years later, on 11 November 1918, the town’s wonderful church bells announced armistice and French victory.
As a young man, he was a high-level gymnast before taking up bike racing prior to World War II. A communist militant, and active in the French Resistance to the Nazis during World War II, he left France and settled in Venezuela after the war.
Eventually, he returned to France where he rediscovered his love of cyclosportive cycling in 1978, participating in over 1000 amateur gran fondo and cyclosportive events. Not bad for a young man who left the sport after being told by coaches he was too short (he was five feet tall) and he would never go far.