Set aside your Chris Horner jokes and say bonjour to Robert Marchand who at 102 years old has just done an hour record attempt and set a new personal best distance of 26.925 kilometres, pulverising his old record of 24km.
Marchand’s become a minor celebrity in France for this, appearing on TV and news bulletins throughout the day (way more coverage than, say FDJ’s Kenny Elissonde got for winning the Angliru stage of the Vuelta).
But as much as this hour record is providing him with plenty more than the 15 minute quota of fame, he’s talking it all in his stride and seems amused at times embarrassed by the media attention. It’s obviously a notable event but this is no stunt for TV. He’s a racer and started out so young he had to lie about his age in order to ride his first race. To this day he’s a regular cyclist and an hour is no problem, he rides long distance cyclosportifs in the summer, notably the Ardéchoise ride whose organiser Gérard Mistler is the man with the wizard look you often see standing nearby. In 2011 he got run over by a truck and had to skip some rides but his comeback is proving successful although he now tries to limit his maximum daily distance to 100km.
It’s not the first record attempt. Marchand visited the UCI velodrome in Switzerland two years ago and racked up 24.251km aged 100. It all started when he was riding his bike on an indoor trainer and wanted to see how far he could go on his 100th birthday. Many twentysomethings struggle to endure an hour on the indoor trainer. And that’s the point, his activity and vitality is remarkable and it’s why so many are celebrating him.
We’ll see if Fabian Cancellara can rise to the occasion later this year. Yes Marchand’s ride is entertaining but it is also official as Marchand’s ride should be ratified as a world record… for the “Masters 100+” category. To underline the formal record attempt he climbed off the bike to find officials from the Agence française de lutte contre le dopage, France’s anti-doping agency, waiting for him.