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Echoes

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Re: Long Lives
« on: November 26, 2020, 19:39 »
Robert Marchand is celebrating his 109th birthday but is not doing so well anymore. The lockdown meant that he could no longer go shopping. He was delivered his food at home but eventually no longer enjoyed it. He weakened and fell several times in his own flat. That's how his relatives decided to place him in a retirement home. He's still healthy though and still has a pretty nice sense of humour.

He was born in Amiens on 26 Novembre 1911, shortly before Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole, shortly before Sun Yah Tsen became the first President of Chinese Republic. Titanic sank in April 1912. He was not yet 3 when World War I broke out. German troops occupied Amiens on 31th August. Robert was separated from his parents and sent to a guest family in a farm in Bourbon-L'Archambault, that is the centre of France, the closest town being Montluçon. Marchand claimed that he was already "locked down" in Bourbon-L'Archambault, when the "Spanish flu" broke out. Marchand fondly remembers the Armistice day on 11 November 1918. He was in the field with the cows and all church bells in Bourbon-L'Archambault were ringing. Only in 1919 he could get back to his family.

Marchand has seen two World Wars, three major pandemics (Spanish Flu 1918-1920, Hong Kong Flu 1968 and Covid-19 (since 2019), has seen the first flight over the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh when aged 15, has seen Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay summitting Mount Everest when aged 41 and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the Moon when aged 56. He's survived some major financial crashes like the 1929 and the 2007 crashes, he's seen totalitarian regimes form birth to dissolution: Soviet Union (1917-1991), Fascist Italy (1922-1945), Nazi Germany (1933-1945) . He's a communist himself.

He's seen Henri Pélissier winning the 1919 Paris-Roubaix edition through devastating lands which owed the race its nickname "Hell of the North". He's seen Alfredo Binda becoming the first ever World Champion road race. He was alive when Gino Bartali was born and saw him pass away. Same for Fausto Coppi.

He's seen the first ever live broadcast on television by John Logie Baird in 1926, he's seen Sir Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin in 1928, the first personal computer by Pier Giorgio Perotto in 1964, the first cell phone invented by John F. Mitchell and Martin Cooper in 1973, the start of World Wide Web in 1990, the first iphone in 2007, the start of Whatsapp in 2009.


Robert Marchand was an accomplished gymnast and French champion human pyramid in 1924. Then he bought his first bike in 1925 at age 13 and won his first race in Claye-Souilly.

In 1929, Marchand raced for ES Drancy and was spotted by the Levallois Cycling Club manager who said he raced like an idiot and was too short anyway (152 cm). Marchand was so upset that he got rid of his equipment and bike.

Between 1932 and 1936 Marchand was a firefighter in Paris but was force to leave the fire department for insubordination.

In 1937, he resumed cycling a little bit.

In 1938, he was again mobilised as a firefighter as a preparation for the war that was soon to come. He was demobilised in 1943.

Marchand was married in 1939 but his wife passed away in 1943. 

Marchand claimed he tried to emigrate to Australia after the war but all ports were still closed as Japan was still a threat. That's how he went to Venezuela where he worked in a sugar cane plantation, among other jobs. He saw a military coup in 1950, when Delgado Chalbaud was assassinated and Perez Jimenez became a new dictator. Communist Marchand is sure that the US backed Perez Jimenez.

Marchand was back to France in 1953 before leaving to Canada in 1957 where he worked as a lumberman but he found it too hard and was back to France in 1960, works as a wine trader and a market gardener.

Marchand bought a new bike in 1978 and seriously resumed cycling, training hard (aged 66). His mother passed away in 1979.
In 1985, at age 73, he raced Bordeaux-Paris as a cyclotourist for the first time. In 1988, the year of the last pro edition of the race, he covered Bordeaux-Paris in 34h42'. All in all he rode 8 Bordeaux-Paris, 4 Paris-Roubaix, 3 Marmotte (race in the Alpes over the Galibier and Alpe d'Huez). In 1992, he rode from Paris to Moscow at age 80.

In 1999, he did his first Ardéchoise, a cyclosporting stage race. He would race it 11 times. In 2011, he crashed on the race with the organiser Gérard Mistler, trying to avoid a lorry that was going backward. He's slightly injured. For his 100th birthday, a climb is renamed after him the Col Robert Marchand (6,8 km at 5,7% av.gr. and 9,2 km at 4,1%) which he climbed at the Ardéchoise.



In 2000, Marchand retires from active alive at age 88.

On 17th February 2012, Robert Marchand set the first 100+ hour record : 24.1 km. He's backed by his two coaches Robert Mistler and Magali Humbert, former pro rider.

On 28th September 2012, he set the first 100 km record in Lyon for 100+ : 4h 17'27" (23 kmh).

On 31st January 2014, he broke his own Hour record in Saint-Quentin-en Yveline : 26.927 km.

Véronique Billat is a physiologist who also accompanied Robert Marchand. She claims that even Eddy Merckx - 33 years younger - can no longeer keep his wheel. She claims he's got the capacities of a 50-year-old man.

On 26th November 2014, he climbed the climb that is named after him (the 9km side) in 56 minutes.

On 4th January 2017, he covered 22,547 km in an hour, setting the record in the 105+ category. Still in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

On 9th January 2018, his doctor advise him to retire from cycling but he still resumes every now and then. On 11 February 2018, he again covers 4,000 km still in Saint-Quentin-en-Yveline. On 26 October 2018, Marchand came back once again to Saint-Quentin for a one-hour tour on the velodrome, but this performance was not a record to set and is not sanctioned by the UCI.

On his 107th birthday, Marchand covers 20 km in the Ardèche between Privas and Le Pouzin.

He lived in a small studio appartment (must be 30 sq meters or something) until recently when brought to a retirement home because of the pandemic. He's only got a 900€/month retirement pension.

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  • "Paris-Roubaix is the biggest cycling race in the world, bigger than the Tour de France, bigger than any other bike race" (Sir Bradley Wiggins)

     



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