French centenarian cyclist Robert Marchand, 105 (C) reacts after setting a one-hour track cycling World record at 22.547m in the over-105 age group, at the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines race track on January 4, 2017. PHILIPPE LOPEZ / AFP
A 105-year-old Frenchman set a new one-hour cycling record for his age Wednesday — although Robert Marchand was already in a class of his own.
Marchand pedalled for 22.547 kilometres (14.01 miles) in the national velodrome in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines west of Paris to the cheers of hundreds of spectators — and when he had finished he said he could have gone faster.
“I didn’t see the sign saying there were 10 minutes to go, otherwise I would have speeded up,” the wiry champion told a scrum of reporters who surrounded him at the finish.
Marchand dismounted and although a coach put a steadying arm around him, he walked off the track without difficulty.
“I’m not tired, my legs aren’t hurting, but my arms are. It has to hurt somewhere!” he said after doing 92 laps of the track.
“I feel emotional — and I’m even asking myself if all this is real!” said Marchand, who was born in 1911, three years before World War I began.
When a reporter asked if he was going to do another lap, he said emphatically: “No!”
Age is slowing him though — three years ago he managed to ride 26.927 km in one hour, a record for someone aged over 100.
– No rivals –
There was no known existing mark for someone of 105, so Marchand truly blazed a trail on Wednesday.
“Now I’ll wait and see if anyone wants to take me on,” he said with a chuckle.
By comparison, the one-hour world record is 54.526 km, set by British Tour de France winner and multiple Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins.
Marchand, a retired firefighter who was a national gymnastics champion and a boxer, attributes his enduring fitness to a healthy diet — and lots of exercise.
“I’ve done sport all my life, eaten loads of fruit and vegetables, not too much coffee,” he said before the record attempt.
“I do between 10 and 20 kilometres a day (cycling), but I don’t train outside. I’m afraid I might catch flu!”
One of his coaches, Jean-Michel Richefort, said he felt “really emotional” about his not-so-young charge’s achievement.
“He went off very fast and I was afraid he’d have cramp. But he kept his form, he was very focused and he followed a perfect line,” he said.
As the celebrations continued, Marchand was asked if he now had his eye on the record for 110-year-olds.
“It’s a long way off — let’s talk about it at a later date,” he said.