Sunday, 6 January 2013


Robert Marchand climbed onto his bike and set off around a cycle track. Four hours 17 minutes and 27 seconds later he climbed off having covered 100km at an average speed of 14.5mph.

Impressed? - It doesn't seem remarkable - until you realise that Marchand is 100 years old. His feat, over 300 laps of a velodrome in Lyons, southeast France, gave him the distance record for a centenarian: 100 over 100 - you must admit it has a certain ring to it.

Robert Marchland in action
Robert Marchand is just 5ft tall and weighs a wispy 8 stone - He claims no particular secret for maintaining such fitness in old age - he started cycling aged 14 but he hasn't ridden on a track for 80 years! "I have never drunk or smoked except for festive occasions" he said "And in women, I did not indulge too much"

Might his velodrome performance have been enhanced by something else then? "The only doping for me is water with a spoonful of honey - that's it"

But surely, advancing years have somewhat curtailed his vigour? - Does he think about easing up a little? Five years ago at 95 Marchand decided to limit his rides to a mere 100km - "There's no point in going overboard" he said "Iwant to keep cycling for some time yet"

Now let's not pretend that we shall all be matching Monsieur Marchand's performance when we hit 100. At that age I suspect most of us will be cruising around that great velodrome in the sky - but there are lessons for all of us. Regular cycling is excellent for maintaining good health. One large-scale study has found that people who cycled at least 20 miles per week were roughly half as likely to suffer from heart disease as those who didn't - and the finding was independent of other factors such as obesity, high blood pressure etc - in very crude terms someone who cycles regularly is likely to have the cardiovascular fitness of a non-cyclist who is 10 years younger.

So, take Robert Marchand as your inspiration and keep pedalling!

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