French cyclist Robert Marchand has this afternoon become the first person to set an Hour Record for the Masters aged 105 years and above category - one specially created for him by the UCI. The 105-year-old set a distance of 22.547 kilometres at France's national velodrome in Saint Quentin en Yvelines, near Paris.
His record attempt was streamed live by the French network BFM TV, and video of him completing his ride can be watched here.
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) January 4, 2017
Five years ago, the UCI created the existing Masters aged 100 and over category especially for Marchand, who set his first record in 2010, when he rode 24.251 kilometres at the World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland.
His previous experience of riding on a track had come eight decades earlier, and afterwards, he said: “I just wanted to do something for my 100th birthday.”
In 2014, he bettered the record by 10 per cent when he rode 26.925 kilometres at Saint Quentin en Yvelines - a record that still stands.
The same venue will host today’s record attempt on the record, which is due to commence at 4pm local time, and assuming Marchand completes the 60 minutes will also see the creation of a record in a new category for Masters aged 105 and over.
It’s now more than 90 years since he first entered a bike race, which he had to do under an assumed name because he was below the age limit for entry.
He has taken part in every edition of the Ardéchoise sportive since its debut in 1992, when he was aged 79, and has a mountain pass named after him, the Col Robert Marchand, which is at 911 metres above sea level – he was born in 1911.
Accompanying Marchand today will be Véronique Billat, a university professor who specialises in physiology and performance, and is an expert in VO2 max, which measures the maximum volume of oxygen someone can use while exercising.
She has been studying Marchand since he turned 100, and told Le Figaro that following his latest VO2 max results she was “super excited” for today’s record attempt.
“The improvement of the record from 2012 to 2014 had shown that it was possible to improve his performances despite advancing age with personalised exercises.
“We are now certain that it is possible to improve Robert’s VO2 max thanks to his latest results, which measured 40 millilitres of oxygen per minute per kilogram of body weight, which is an increase from 2014.
“This is incredible news since these measures are similar to those of a sedentary person aged 50 years.”
While Marchand may be very much an exceptional case, Professor Billat said that his data showed the value of continuing to exercise – or even taking it up in the first place – late in life.
“The [results] show that in any case exercise is a factor in youth. This is a beautiful message for Humanity: where there’s life, there’s hope, since the tendency of the VO2 max curve to decline, which seems inexorable from the age of 30, can be reversed.
“We knew that already for people aged 50, but not for subjects aged 105. These data are exceptional, above all given they show the values of someone half his age.”
She added: “The secret of youth, is above all to follow a personalised exercise regime in accordance with your abilities.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.