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109-year old cyclist writes to French president: Let us ride our bikes!

Robert Marchand celebrated his 109th birthday on a bicycle,deprived of his usual ride, he sent a letter to the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, to express his frustration

109-year old cyclist writes to French president: Let us ride our bikes!

Like all French people, Robert Marchand had to respect the COVID19 lockdown which prohibited him from going out for exersize more than a kilometre from his home. Deprived of his usual ride, he sent a letter to the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, to express his frustration.

He wrote, “I know the gravity of the pandemic and I understand the need for this second confinement, but I find it regrettable that it deprives us in large part of physical activities” he wrote to the president. “Sport, I believe I am a living proof of this, is a cure for disease and a factor of good health. Those who play sport clutter up hospital emergencies much less than those who do not.”

Robert Marchand has always cycled, he waited until he was a hundred years old to become a celebrity. On September 17, 2012, on the track at the UCI velodrome in Aigles, he set the world record for "over one hundred years old" category, covering 24.1 kilometres in an hour. Two years later, at St Quentin en Yvelines, he raised this record to 26.927 kilometres.

In between that, in Lyon, he had covered a hundred kilometres in 4:17:27, To the amazement of doctors and researchers who took him as the subject of their study on ageing. That day, the French physiologist Véronique Billat calculated that Robert Marchand had the cardiac capacities 50 year old. That was living proof that activity, both physical and mental, regenerates cells. From California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who converted to cycling for health reasons, tweeted: “This is absolutely, unquestionably inspiring. I am ready for a bike.”

Robert Marchand immediately answered Arnold Schwarzenegger that he was waiting for him in France for a social ride. The invitation still stands, but because of the  pandemic, its two waves and its two lockdowns have deeply affected the morale and physique of Robert Marchand.

Because of the health crisis, the champion left his studio in the Parisian suburbs where he lived alone in complete autonomy. He is now living in an accommodation for the elderly or dependent (EHPAD) where Gérard Mistler, the president of Ardéchoise found him emaciated. “Because of the Covid, Robert could no longer go to buy his food and he could not stand the meals on wheels that were delivered to him,” stated the president of Ardéchoise. “Robert does not suffer from particular pathologies, but he has lost his morale.”

To reassure him, a French bicycle brand, a partner of the Ardéchoise, gave Robert Marchand, as a birthday present, a home trainer specially tailored for a 109-year-old champion. The champion has found a smile and enough energy to address the President of the French Republic in a plea in the favour of the sport of cycling.

The Ardéchoise is the one of the largest cycling events in the world. Every year, during the third week of June, nearly twenty-thousand cyclists from all over the world gather in St Félicien, an Ardèche village of 900 inhabitants. Robert Marchand takes part in the event, except for 2020, when the event did not take place due to the pandemic.