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Mighty M. Marchand aiming for 25km, but can he crack the very first hour ever recorded?

A 102-year-old Frenchman is about to try and break his own record for the greatest distance ridden in an hour by a centenarian.

Robert Marchand holds the record of 24.25km in a category specifically created for him by cycling’s governing body, the UCI. He set that record on the track at the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle on February 17, 2012.

Tomorrow, almost two years later, he’s aiming to exceed 25km on the new velodrome in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, just outside Paris, according to The Connexion.

If he makes it, he won’t be far off the mark set in the very first recorded bicycle record attempt. In 1876 Frank Dodds covered 15.85 miles (25.51km)  on an Ordinary (high-wheeler) bike at Cambridge University athletics ground.

Later in 2012 M. Marchand also set a record for the fastest 100km ride by a centenarian, when he covered the distance in 4 hours 17 minutes and 27 seconds.

His first record attempt came about at the urging of Gérard Mistler, Président of the Ardéchoise Cyclo-Promotion sportive.The centenerian is a perennial entrant to the ride, launched in 1992 when he was a sprightly 79 years of age.

He started racing when he was just 14 years old, entering his first event under an assumed name because he was too young to compete.

In his long life, the remarkable M. Marchand has been a gym instructor to the Paris fire department, worked as a lumberjack in Canada, and lived in Venezuela for several years. He now lives in Mitry-Mory near Paris.

As well as cycling he has turned his hand to boxing, gymnastics and weightlifting. He puts his longevity and ability to be active at an advanced age down to luck with his health and keeping moving. 

“My advice to anyone, young or old, is to keep moving. I do ‘physical culture’ every day. It works out my whole body and keeps me supple. Some people when they reach 80 years old, start playing cards and they stay immobile. Not me. I’ve never been able to keep still…”

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.