From Switzerland to Canada – Behind the Scenes at the 2015 UCI Downhill World Cup SeriesPosted on October 12th, 2015
Our physio, Laura Robson, has just returned from a world tour with Gee and Rachel Atherton and their Atherton Racing Team and here is her blog as she heads to some of the best Downhill Mountain Bike venues on the planet.
Harris & Ross has been working alongside The Atherton Racing Team for a number of years. High performance manager, Darren Roberts leads on their fitness and strength programmes, while clinical director, Doug Jones does their physiotherapy.
In 2014, I had the exciting (and scary!) opportunity to step into Doug’s shoes to continue providing the physiotherapy for the team. This past summer, I was fortunate to call the mountains in Fort William, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Canada and the US, my treatment room.
The Atherton Racing team have been in this game a very long time and are now one of the leading elite professional teams on the circuit. My role is to help maintain these athletes, in order for them to perform at their constant best throughout the season.
Luckily I like a challenge and as it happens, Harris and Ross have also been in the game a long time and are one of the leading Sports Physiotherapy companies in the country (I’m not biased). As a Physio, you can feel ‘on your own’ in a fast paced, high pressured environment but I’m fortunate to have the support of my senior colleagues, as well as having access to some of the country’s leading specialists for each part of the body.
The 2015 UCI Downhill World Cup Series and World Championships have gone by in a blur, with huge successes and victories, all the while dealing with injuries and physical challenges along the way. This season challenged me with managing a concussion, intra-muscular haematoma ‘dead leg’, hand injuries, finger dislocation, ankle sprains, elbow bursitis, rotator cuff tear and an AC joint sprain.
My time with the Atherton Racing Team, kicked off at Round 2, Fort William (6-7th June) where the wet conditions kept me on my toes, with each rider taking on the crashes. Gee hit his head hard during practice and came away lightly with mild concussion and swelling from his jaw subluxing; during a separate crash he ‘punched’ a tree and damaged the soft tissue around his middle knuckle. Rachel had her worst case of ‘Arm pump’ (Chronic exertional compartment syndrome) following a recent ‘nerve block’ injection to calm an irritated nerve root, which had a huge impact on her qualifying results. However after a re-focus chat and treatment that evening, she soon turned it around for a win the next day!
Bring on the drier conditions!
Thankfully no new major injuries occurred in Leogang, Austria for Round 3 but I was at the ready when Taylor Vernon experienced a few slides along the track, luckily he persevered unscathed.
Next was Round 4: Lenzerheide, Switzerland (4-5th July) Rachel Atherton took her third consecutive World Cup win, extending her World Cup Series lead while Gee podiumed with 5th place. GT Factory Racing took the accolade “Team of the Day.”
During Round 5&6: Monte-Sainte Anne, Canada (1-2nd August) and Windham, USA (8-9th August), I worked on Gee’s shoulders and his upper back, as he was feeling the subsequent effects from hitting his head in Fort Williams; however, Gee did end up injuring his shoulder from a fall.
Round 7: Val Di Sole, Italy (22-23rd August) Rachel took the win at the beautiful Val di Sole. She had already secured the Series Overall so this was her 6th win out of 7.
Finally we had UCI World Championships, Vallnord (1st-6th Sept) – with Rachel taking the win and claiming the World Cup Overall and World Champs season double. I was so proud to be part of such an amazing achievement!
My usual schedule at each event:
Day 1: Meet the riders, team manager and chef at the airport, fly to destination, eat a well-balanced meal and ensure the riders are well rested.
Day 2: Treatment for all riders, ironing out the stiffness from the flight; assess and attend to any ongoing injuries.
Day 3: Track walk in the afternoon, riders warm their legs up on the turbo and I accompany them on the walk- I can never quite believe they ride down these tracks at high speed! The riders then spin their legs, jump in an ice bath and have a ‘flush out’ massage. The evenings are spent providing more treatment as required.
Day 4: Practice day, this is when the early mornings start and I’m up with Rachel (and the birds!) to hang out in the Atherton Racing pits, ‘on call’ in case of any crashes or problems. I also ensure the riders are hydrating and warming up/cooling down efficiently.
The evening is spent providing the vital treatment needed, in preparation for qualifying the next day.
Day 5: Qualifying – again I’m up early with the first rider, always Rachel. We head down to the pits and I’m there for training and to neaten up any warm up techniques and treat last minute aches/pains before they all head up for their qualifying runs. Times for each rider are worked out to the last minute and available for the team to see, so everyone knows what they need to do.
Day 6: RACE DAY! This is why we are all here, the riders all need to be feeling in top condition so I have been busy the night before treating and preparing for the crucial day. Organisation is key, we all have our roles in the team, I’m present for all warm ups and ensure each rider is well rested before their race run. As soon as the rider leaves the pits, I know that there’s nothing more I can do to help, so as long as I know that I have done my best, then I’m happy! I watch each race run with suspense and join in with the celebrations of successes or ‘evaluate’ how to improve performance.