Passion for cycling drives physiotherapist Jessica
As the physiotherapist of the AG Insurance - Soudal Quick-Step cycling team, I am excited to be part of a team dedicated to guiding professional female cyclists. I am pleased to share my story of how I became involved in this sport, the team, and what drew me to it.
My journey into the world of professional cycling actually began in the private practice where I was already working. There, I provided guidance to young cyclists during their rehabilitation process, which brought me into contact with athletes who were determined to work their way up to the professional level. Their incredible determination and dedication to their goals left a deep impression on me and further piqued my interest in the sport. What further captivated me about cycling was when my friend decided to intensively train and participate in Granfondo events. This led to me being present as a supporter and physiotherapist during his races for the first time. The experiences I gained during these moments fueled my curiosity and passion for the sport. The energy and passion that run through cycling are truly fantastic.
The pivotal step to become a physiotherapist in a professional cycling team is actually thanks to my friend. He gave me the push, after which I sent my CV to AG Insurance - Soudal Quick-Step, making my dream a reality, and I came on board this summer.
Daily tasks and responsibilities of a physiotherapist in a cycling team
My daily tasks and responsibilities as a physiotherapist for the team are diverse and demanding. As a physiotherapist, I assess and treat injuries and other musculoskeletal issues in the riders. My background as an osteopath in training allows me to strive for harmony in the athlete's body. If an injury does occur, I support the riders in their rehabilitation to help them recover quickly and return to their highest level of performance. But injury prevention is also a crucial aspect of my work. Providing advice is essential in this regard.
In the lead-up to a race, I perform treatments to optimize the riders' performance and provide additional support for any issues that may arise. During the race, you can find me on the course to supply the riders and offer them encouragement. After the race, I focus on recovery to reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. In addition to my standard physiotherapy tasks, I also try to support the soigneurs where necessary, such as providing massages, filling water bottles, preparing recovery meals, and shopping.
The importance of physiotherapy in professional cycling
Physiotherapy plays an essential role in professional cycling for several reasons. Firstly, there is injury prevention, which is vital to prevent riders from getting injured in the first place. Additionally, physiotherapy contributes to faster recovery, performance optimization, relief from muscle soreness and fatigue, and psychological support by offering a listening ear. By combining all these different aspects, I, as a physiotherapist, contribute to promoting a healthy and sustainable career for the riders. This enables them to perform at their best and remain competitive throughout the entire season.
A glimpse into a typical treatment session
A typical treatment session varies depending on the rider's complaint and the goal of the treatment. In terms of prevention and preparation for the season, I work to address imbalances in the body through manual techniques, such as joint mobilizations, manipulations, soft tissue techniques, and trigger point therapy. Then, I implement targeted exercise therapy to optimize the riders' strength, stability, and flexibility.
During a race, it mainly involves the previously mentioned manual techniques, both before and after the race. I also provide advice on muscle activation and apply taping if necessary. Each treatment session is tailored to the specific needs of the rider and aims for optimal results.
Collaboration with the team for success
Close collaboration with other staff members is essential to improve the performance and well-being of the riders. A holistic approach to each rider is crucial and is at the center of our focus. Regular meetings allow each staff member to share their input and collaborate to ensure the athlete functions optimally. When following a rehabilitation process, additional meetings are scheduled with the team doctor to ensure the rider receives the best possible care. Cooperation is the key to success.
Common injuries and challenges in cycling
Cyclists may face various injuries and challenges due to the repetitive nature of their sport and the physical demands it imposes. Common issues include overuse injuries, lower back pain, saddle sores, abrasions, neck and shoulder pain, muscle fatigue, cramps, nerve compression syndromes (tingling and numbness in the hands and feet), and general fatigue. To help cyclists overcome these injuries and challenges, I employ an individualized approach tailored to the specific needs of the rider. This can range from manual techniques and dry needling to intensive exercise therapy sessions. Additionally, close collaboration with other staff members, including coaches, soigneurs, and the team doctor, is vital to provide optimal support to the riders.
The satisfaction of working as a physiotherapist in the cycling team
The most satisfying aspect of my work as a physiotherapist is witnessing riders giving their all in a race and achieving their personal goals after a period of rehabilitation. After a period of hard work and dedication, reaching the point where they finish without complaints and at their highest level is priceless.
The personal bond with the riders
Traveling to various races throughout the season allows me to spend a lot of time with the riders. This not only allows me to get to know their professional ambitions but also the person behind the athlete. This helps build a trusting relationship and enables me to better understand their needs during rehabilitation, recovery, and races.
Future goals and ambitions
My goals and ambitions as a physiotherapist with the team are focused on the growth of the team as a whole. I aim to contribute to creating an environment in which each rider can develop optimally into the best possible athlete. Prevention, preparation, effort, and recovery remain central in my guidance. I look forward to more memorable moments with the team and am committed to growing together with them.