French cyclist Robert Marchand, 105, reacts after setting a record for distance cycled in one hour, at the velodrome of Saint-Quentin en Yvelines, outside Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. The Frenchman set a world record in the 105-plus age category -- created especially for the tireless veteran -- by riding 22.547 kilometers in one hour. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
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105-year-old Frenchman sets cycling world record

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SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France (AP) — Nearly a century ago, Robert Marchand was told by a coach that he should give up cycling because he would never achieve anything on a bike.

He proved that prediction wrong again on Wednesday.

In a skin-tight yellow and violet jersey, the 105-year-old Frenchman set a world record in the 105-plus age category — created especially for the tireless veteran — by riding 22.547 kilometers in one hour.

Marchand had ridden faster in the past on the boards of the Velodrome National, a state of the art venue used to host the elite of track cycling. But he had warned before his latest attempt that his current form was not as good.

“I did not see the sign warning me I had 10 minutes left,” Marchand said after his effort. “Otherwise I would have gone faster, I would have posted a better time. I’m now waiting for a rival.”

Three years ago at the same venue, Marchand covered 26.927 kilometers in one hour to better his own world record in the over-100s category.

Still, impressed fans and chanted “Robert, Robert” during the last minutes of his ride. Marchand received a standing ovation once he completed the last of his 92 laps and was then mobbed by dozens of cameramen and TV crews.

“He could have been faster but he made a big mistake. He has stopped eating meat over the past month after being shocked by recent reports on how animals are subjected to cruel treatment,” Marchand’s physiologist, Veronique Billat, told The Associated Press.

By way of comparison, the current overall world record for one hour is 54.526 kilometers (miles) set by British rider Bradley Wiggins in 2015. But Wiggins, who smashed the previous record using the world’s leading track cycling equipment, is now retired.

Marchand, who lives in a small flat in a Parisian suburb with a meager pension of about 900 euros ($940), keeps pedaling and stretching every day. As if time had no effect on him.

“He’s got two essential qualities. A big heart that pumps a lot of blood, and he can reach high heart beat values that are exceptional for his age,” said Billat, a university professor. “If he starts eating meat again and builds more muscle, he can better this mark.”

Marchand, a former firefighter who was born in 1911 in the northern town of Amiens, has lived through two world wars. He led an eventful life that took him to Venezuela, where he worked as a truck driver near the end of the 1940s. He then moved to Canada and became a lumberjack for a while.

Back in France in the 1960s, Marchand made a living through various jobs that left him with no time to practice sports.

He finally took up his bike again when he was 68 years old and began a series of cycling feats.

The diminutive Marchand — he is 1.52 meters (5-foot) tall and weighs 52 kilograms (115 pounds) — rode from Bordeaux to Paris, and Paris to Roubaix several times. He also cycled to Moscow from Paris in 1992.

Ten years later, he set the record for someone over the age of 100 riding 100 kilometers (62 miles).

“If the president of his teenage club who told him he was not made for cycling because he was too small could see him today, he would kick himself,” Marchand’s coach and good friend Gerard Mistler told the AP.

According to Mistler, the secret behind Marchand’s longevity relates to his healthy lifestyle: eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, no smoking, just the occasional glass of wine and exercising on a daily basis.

“He never pushed his limits, goes to bed at 9 p.m. and wakes up at 6 a.m., there’s no other secret,” Mistler said. “If had been doping, he would not be there anymore.”

To stay fit, Marchand rides every day on his home trainer and puts himself through outdoor training sessions on the road when the weather is good enough.

“One needs to keep his muscles working,” said Marchand, a faithful reader of communist newspaper L’Humanite.

“Reading a lot keeps his mind alert,” Mistler said. “He does not watch much TV, apart from the Tour de France stages.”

At 105, Marchand is not making plans for the future. His coach would not be surprised to see him back on the boards, though.

“Setting goals for himself is part of his personality,” Mistler said. “If he tells me he wants to improve his record, I’ll be game. Robert is a great example for all of us.”

MORE: Lance Armstrong sets goal for 2017

 

Lance Armstrong sets goal for 2017 to return to cancer fight

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 20:  Lance Armstrong (C) heads out with cyclists on December 20, 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand. The disgraced Tour de France rider is in New Zealand to film a commercial, and put out a call on social media for local riders to join him on a ride along the Auckland Waterfront.  (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
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Lance Armstrong has a message for the cancer-fighting community: He wants back in.

Armstrong, 45, listed rejoining the cancer fight as a difference-maker as a top goal for the next year.

The disgraced cyclist was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1996 and started the Lance Armstrong Foundation (later changed to Livestrong) in 1997.

He won a record seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999 through 2005, but in 2012 was banned for life and stripped of those titles for doping. His ties with Livestrong were also severed in 2012.

“I think I know how to effect change. I’ve done it for a long time,” Armstrong said in a podcast posted Sunday. “It’s obviously touched my life significantly, continues to touch all of our lives on a daily basis. I want back in that fight. It’s not through Livestrong. It’s not through, probably, places you would think, but I want in. I’ve got my gloves on, and I want to fight, and I want to effect change and make a difference.

“I’ve seen the fight against cancer for 20 years. … I got to learn it as I built an organization that, I think, did great things. And then I’ve seen it as a cynic and as a skeptic and as a person that’s 10 steps removed from the fight. … I can help.”

Armstrong also said his last legal case, a federal lawsuit that could cost him $100 million, is set to go to trial in May.

“That’s a big deal for me and my family,” Armstrong said. “But the trial, which basically takes a month, isn’t a goal. The goal is to get that part of my life behind me and move forward.”

In 2014, Armstrong reportedly said he might start a new cancer foundation.

Armstrong competed in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics.

In 2013, he was stripped of his only Olympic medal, a bronze from the Sydney 2000 time trial, where former U.S. Postal Service teammate Viatcheslav Ekimov took gold and longtime rival Jan Ullrich, who admitted to blood doping during his career, took silver.

MORE: Armstrong intrigued by ultra marathon, obstacle-course races

Bradley Wiggins retires as Great Britain’s most decorated Olympian

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 12:  Gold medalist Bradley Wiggins of Team Great Britain poses for photographs with his fifth gold medal in his career after at the medal ceremony for the Men's Team Pursuit on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Rio Olympic Velodrome on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
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Bradley Wiggins is retiring after all.

Wiggins, the most decorated British Olympian with eight medals, had been placed on British Cycling’s national track team for 2017 in case he decided to continue competing as he approaches age 37.

Turns out, he won’t be using that spot.

2016 is the end of the road for this chapter,” Wiggins said on his team’s official Facebook page.

In his last race, Wiggins won a six-day team track event with Mark Cavendish in his birthplace of Ghent, Belgium, on Nov. 20.

“This will be the last time we race together, for sure, maybe not my last, individually,” Wiggins said then.

Wiggins’ career included not only the record eight Olympic cycling medals and five golds, but also the first Tour de France title for a Brit in 2012.

He also won world championships in the road time trial and track’s individual pursuit, team pursuit and madison.

Great Britain’s most decorated Olympians
Bradley Wiggins, Cycling — 8 medals, 5 gold
Chris Hoy, Cycling — 7 medals, 6 gold
Jason Kenny, Cycling — 7 medals, 6 gold (ACTIVE)
Steve Redgrave, Rowing — 6 medals, 5 gold

MORE: Most decorated Olympic women’s track cyclist retires