Matt Rabin, chiropractor for Cannondale-Garmin and the Slipstream team’s various guises since 2008, is the kind of man who instills faith in his clients. Some go to extraordinary lengths to benefit from the healing hands of Rabin.
Former Garmin pro Christian Vande Velde was at his wits’ end back in 2007 with longstanding biomechanical problems stretching back over several years of his career.
One session from Rabin and he was convinced. “He said ‘I don’t know what you did, but it made a huge difference,’” says the Londoner, co-author of newly-released book The Pain-Free Cyclist. “Four or five times over a six-week period, he would fly over from Girona, I’d treat him, then he’d fly back again.”
Namibian Dan Craven, with small-scale Continental outfit Bike Aid in Germany at the start of 2014, was another to entrust the treatment of his undiagnosed issues to Rabin, making flying visits to London to get his career back on track. Within months, the generously-bearded African signed with Europcar and rode his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta.
Talking through an athlete’s history to find the underlying cause behind their issues will often take up more time that the treatment itself. Rabin identified a virus Craven contracted at the Tour of Qinghai Lake in 2009 as being the possible start of his up-and-down performances in the five intervening years. That’s a lot of background information to cover.
“The more I get to know an athlete, the more I can assess ways that I can help them,” says Rabin. “There is a lot of talking – I can go in and work blind without that information – but it really helps them to understand what it is I am doing. Some of the things I do can appear quite subtle to the untrained eye.”
Having experienced some McTimoney chiropractic sessions myself, I can attest to the subtle nature of the work. A series of miniscule glancing blows up and down my spine was a world away from the crunching and wrenching I had nervously anticipated entering the room. It was hard to see what benefit this barely noticeable treatment could possibly have. But two sessions and a set of regular exercises later, I was sorted. And a convert. Trust is key here.
“An osteopath who I look up to a good deal – and it has been a massive help to me in my career looking after athletes – told me: ‘Before you can buy the message, you’ve got to buy the messenger,’” Rabin says. “When you treat somebody, leave your ego at the door; do your best and don’t invest in the outcome. If you get fantastic results, don’t think that you are amazing, but that you were lucky enough to have the tools in your toolbox to address that situation.”
And Rabin’s toolbox is, as Paul Sherwen might say, an ever-deepening suitcase of knowledge: “My remit has always been to continue learning, even now; to increase my ability to assess and treat. Every time I encounter a new patient, I learn something from them, and that’s what I find fascinating.”
Rabin also works with top-level professional footballers. Cyclists love to make out how soft footballers are compared to road racers. But the ribbing goes both ways, he says.
“I get a lot of stick about cycling, from the players and the staff. My riposte is always: go in that gym on a Wattbike at 300W and try and sit there for 15 minutes. Any given pro rider will do that for five hours. Or try and do three minutes at 440W. Brad [Wiggins] will do that for an hour. Then they get it.”