Tributes are coming in for record-breaking centenarian French cyclist Robert Marchand, who has died at the age of 109.
Mr Marchand died overnight on Friday May 21 at his care home in Mitry-Mory (Seine-et-Marne). At age 105, he was recognised as the “world’s oldest competitive cyclist” by Cyclist magazine.
Town mayor Charlotte Blandiot Faride paid tribute, saying: "Robert was a real champion, someone who could dream but also kept his feet on the ground. He was also a friend, someone who was very engaged with unions and politically very left-wing. He was a symbol of our town.”
Cycling authority La Fédération Française de Cyclisme wrote: “We would like to pay a heartfelt tribute to him today and extend our condolences to his family.”
Robert Marchand, doyen des cyclistes, nous a quitté la nuit dernière à l’âge de 109 ans.— FFC (@FFCyclisme) May 22, 2021
La Fédération Française de Cyclisme tient à lui rendre aujourd’hui un vibrant hommage et adresse à ses proches toutes ses condoléances. pic.twitter.com/s9puc9Zggb
As a communist, Mr Marchand refused to accept a gold medal from then-Sports Minister Roselyn Bachelot in 2009, due to his political convictions.
On Saturday (May 22), the secretary-general of the Parti Communiste Français (PCF) paid homage to the sportsman.
Fabien Roussel wrote: “He was inexhaustible. At 108 years old, he continued to take up every challenge on his bike and made us dream. He had lived through the Spanish flu, World War One and World War Two...Friend and comrade, dear Robert Marchand, rest in peace.”
Il etait pourtant inépuisable. A 108 ans, il continuait de relever tous les défi sur son velo et nous faisait rêver. Il avait connu la grippe espagnole, la 1ère puis la 2nde Guerre mondiale... Ami et camarade, cher Robert Marchand, repose en paix. pic.twitter.com/BD2sPwKm6o— Fabien Roussel (@Fabien_Roussel) May 22, 2021
Fans and admirers left more tributes on Twitter.
RIP Robert Marchand, one of the founders of L'Ardechoise, holder of cycle sport records in the 100 year plus age group.— CHAIRRDRF (@CHAIRRDRF) May 22, 2021
At the age of 109.
A final "Chapeau, Robert"
HT @Bicicleto_ZGZ pic.twitter.com/JOOxIbQHh7
Robert Marchand, doyen des cyclistes, s'est éteint cette nuit à l'âge de 109 ans. Ces dernières années, il avait établi plusieurs records de l'heure dans ses catégories. En janvier 2017, à 105 ans, il avait parcouru 22,547 km sur le vélodrome de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. pic.twitter.com/irGYdTq6Ba— Le Gruppetto (@LeGruppetto) May 22, 2021
‘Use everything, abuse nothing’
Born on November 26, 1911, Mr Marchand had an extraordinary life. Despite first discovering cycling as a teenager, he was deemed to be too small to succeed in the sport, and so gave it up.
He then became a firefighter, a sugar cane planter in Venezuela, a lumberjack in Canada, and a wine salesman among other pursuits, before returning to cycling at age 67. He went on to race four Paris-Roubaix, eight Bordeaux-Paris, and 12 Ardèche (l’Ardéchoise) events in his category.
His strong health meant he broke several records. In 2012 in Lyon, he won the record for the fastest time for cycling 100 kilometres in the 100+ age category, with four hours, 17 minutes and 27 seconds.
At the age of 102, he won another record, for 26.927 kilometres in an hour at the velodrome of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. In 2017, he established a new world record for the over-105s category - created just for him - after he completed 22.547 kilometres in an hour.
He celebrated his 107th birthday by cycling 20 kilometres between Privas and Pouzin in Ardèche. The department even has a summit named after him.
Rest in Peace Robert Marchand, the world’s oldest cyclist. He was a short guy legend, nazi resister and a unionist comrade who happened to hold the hour record for the 100+ categories. He was still riding at age 109, when he passed away in his sleep. Goodnight sweet prince. pic.twitter.com/OS0IyxrL9d— CitizenVelo (@Citizenvelo) May 22, 2021
Even in his elderly care home, he had an indoor cycling bike installed in his room.
He was well known for his sense of humour and indefatigable approach towards the sport, once replying to a journalist after a race: “No, I am not tired. I thought my legs were hurting but actually, my legs were not hurting.”
In 2017, Mr Marchand explained his good health and advanced years to FranceInfo. He said: “You must use everything but abuse nothing.”