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France

102-year-old Frenchman beats cycling record ... again

Robert Marchand cycles by official Gerard Mistler (L), who is holding a board indicating his speed
Robert Marchand cycles by official Gerard Mistler (L), who is holding a board indicating his speed Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

A 102-year-old Frenchman has beaten the world record for track cycling for the over-100s by covering 26.952 kilometres in 60 minutes. He did not face a lot of competition - the category created specially for him and he held the previous record of 24.25 kilometres.

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"I was fine but towards the end it started to get hard," Marchand said after cycling round the new Franch national cycle track at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, just outside Paris.

Egged on by 300 fans, who sang "Go Robert!" with accordeon backing, Marchand rode a bike specially built to suit his slight build.

He dropped plans to take up cycling professionally on the advice of doctors and sporting experts who said he was too small.

"He became a professional cyclist at the age at which all the people who dissuaded him from doing so were dead," commented his physiologist, Véronique Billat.

Marchand retired from market gardening at the age of 89, having lived an adventurous life that took him to Venezuela as a lorry driver and Canada as a lumberjack.

He now lives in a council flat on a pension of 800 euros a month.

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