Amidst doping scandals, centenarian just may be cycling’s biggest hero

The list of doping scandals in cycling has been staggering of late. First came the Festina Affair, and then Operation Puerto, and now the whole Lance Armstrong issue is imploding, dragging the reputation of a beautiful sport and several pro athletes down. Yet, remarkably, amidst all the cheating scandals there are a few cyclists still out there very worthy of praise, and we’d argue none more so than 100-year-old Robert Marchand.

The Frenchman, who will turn 101 in November, recently set a world record time for 100 kilometers (about 62 miles), riding them along a velodrome in Lyon, France, in four hours, 17 minutes, and 27 seconds. That’s 23.3 kilometers per hour, or about 14.4 miles per hour.

The pace, 14.4 miles per hour, is nothing to sneeze at. Try going out on your bike and riding 62 miles at 14.4 miles per hour. It’s not as easy as you may think, especially if you’re 100 years old and don’t have much protecting your bum from the uncomfortable bike seat. “What made me suffer the most is the hands and the arms–they get pins and needles. And my backside–I’ve only got skin left,” he’s translated as saying to NTD Television after his ride.

Marchand is such an impressive physical specimen that scientists visit him every three months, just to study him, according to the NTD report. He still lives at home, alone, and drives himself everywhere.

Marchand’s feat comes during a time when cycling is being turned on its head–when riders are finally coming forward and talking openly about the doping culture that has battered the sport for years now.

This is why Marchand may be one of the more praiseworthy cyclists of recent memory. He’s someone who reminds us that instead of being about who has the best doctor, the most tight-lipped confidants, and the newest drug of choice, cycling is supposed to be a simple pursuit–one that involves man, his bike, nature, suffering, and, ultimately, triumph.

As we come out of this dark era of cycling, it’s feats like Marchand’s that may help us do it drug-free.