Robert Marchand, a 105-year-old cyclist, set a world record by riding 22.547 km (14 miles) in one hour on January 4. He rode on the track of the Velodrome National, a state-of-the-art venue used to host the elite of track cycling in Saint-Quentin-En-Yvelines, France.
This was not Marchand’s first record. In February 2012, he set the world one-hour record in the over-100 age group at 24.250 kilometers (15.068 miles). He improved this record to 26.927 km (16.732 miles) in January 2014. He also holds the record for 100 kilometers in his age group. In September 2012 on the track in Lyon he rode 100 km (62.5 miles) in four hours and 15 minutes, averaging just over 23 km per hour.
Marchand is a late bloomer. He cycled when he was younger; however, he was told by a coach that he should give up cycling because he would never achieve anything on a bike. After a busy life working in various physical jobs, he started cycling again at age 68.
What Can We Learn From Robert Marchand?
The simple wisdom of how Robert Marchand lives his life holds lessons for all of us as we age, across a number of areas. He does have some genetic advantages, but in many respects, it’s what he does every day, and every week, that account for his remarkable longevity and continued achievement:
Consistency: After his latest record ride he said, “No, I’m not tired. I thought my legs would hurt. When you are old like me you never stop for too long. If you stop for too long you just won’t be able to get going again. Every morning you need to do something. Maybe four or five kilometers.” He rides every day on his home trainer and trains on the road when the weather is good enough. Exercising consistently is one of the keys to being fit for life.
Atrophy: “You must always train your muscles, because if you don’t they will become lazy.” As we age, our muscles atrophy. Use it or lose it.
Full Body Exercise: He goes to the gym and stretches daily.
Building Muscle: “He could have been faster but he made a big mistake. He has stopped eating meat over the past month after being shocked by recent reports on how animals are subjected to cruel treatment,” said Marchand’s physiologist, Veronique Billat. “If he starts eating meat again and builds more muscle, he can better this mark.”
Years of Cycling: Billat, a university professor, says that Marchand has “a big heart that pumps a lot of blood.” His high stroke volume comes from 37 years of cycling — he started cycling in 1978! Fourteen years later, at age 80, he rode from Moscow to Paris, over 1,800 miles (2, 900 km). He has also ridden from Bordeaux to Paris (365 miles / 585 km), and Paris to Roubaix (155 miles / 250 km) several times.
Additional Resources: Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Fit for Life is packed with 34+ pages of detailed information. And don’t miss the companion pieces in Coach Hughes’ Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond Series, Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Training with Intensity, and Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond: Peak Fitness. All three titles in the series are available in one cost-saving Cycling Past 50, 60 and Beyond Bundle.
Good genetics: “He can reach high heart beat values that are exceptional for his age,” said Billat. Unlike stroke volume, a rider’s maximum heart rate is a function of genetics, not training.
Pacing: While riding, he keeps his heart rate at a steady 110 bpm.
Healthy On-the-Bike-Nutrition: After his record ride three years ago, he joked, “With doping I could have ridden faster. But there is no doping. I only have water with some honey in my bottle here.” While riding, he consumes the two essential nutrients: water and carbohydrate. His coach and good friend Gerard Mistler, said, “If had been doping, he would not be here anymore.”
Healthy Diet and Lifestyle: He eats a lot of fruits and vegetables, doesn’t drink too much coffee, doesn’t smoke and drinks just an occasional glass of wine.
Healthy Weight: He is 5 feet (1.52 meters) tall and weighs just 115 pounds (52 kilograms).
Adequate Recovery: As we get older it takes longer to recover, which is one of the primary indicators of physiological aging. Marchand cycles daily with no recovery days! However, he gets plenty of rest. He goes to bed at 9 p.m. and wakes up at 6 a.m.
In short, he’s an inspiration for every cyclist. “I’m not here to break any record,” he said. “I’m doing it to prove that at 105 years old you can still ride a bike.”
Here’s wishing the same for all of us!
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Coach John Hughes earned coaching certifications from USA Cycling and the National Strength and Conditioning Association. John’s cycling career includes course records in the Boston-Montreal-Boston 1200-km randonnée and the Furnace Creek 508, a Race Across AMerica (RAAM) qualifier. He has ridden solo RAAM twice and is a 5-time finisher of the 1200-km Paris-Brest-Paris. He has written nearly 30 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training and nutrition, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach John Hughes. Click to read John's full bio.