Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at the Commonwealth Games? Soigneur, massage therapist, and founder of Roadside Therapy, Tierney Maude, was part of the team treating and supporting the Team England mountain bike athletes during their medal-winning performances at the Gold Coast this year.
Here, Tierney shares an insight into what a typical day at the Games involved.
I’ve been working in professional sport for about five years now. Firstly, working with the UK Continental team, ONE Pro Cycling, covering their first year racing the UK circuit, and then their second year at Pro-Continental level as a full time soigneur. I then started working with British Cycling, covering a lot of their cyclo-cross, mountain bike and women’s road events.
I used to swim to a competitive level from a young age, so I understand the demands that competing and training at a high level have on the body. I’ve always loved cycling and also running, so since leaving swimming, it’s become a great passion and I’ve competed several triathlons, a few long distance cycling and swimming events, and two marathons.
My main role at the Commonwealth Games was to look after the mountain bike athletes, so for the duration of the Games I was based within the athlete village. The mountain bike course was in Nerang, just 30 minutes from the village, so I’d drive up there for course practice and for the race.
I also helped support the men’s road race, and travelled down to Curumbin to assist the soigneurs there in the feed zone, before and after the race.
Most days, riders would go out for training rides or course practice, with a team car supporting, so it was my job to ensure the team car had everything that they needed, including extra water and nutrition.
6am: Gym and breakfast in the athlete village
My day began at 6am – luckily, I was sharing a room with another early bird! I’d use the first two hours of the day to go to the gym, then get everything sorted for the day. I tend to operate better after some exercise – commonly known as ‘Tierney time’!
Breakfast was in the dining hall within the Athlete Village, sometimes with the athletes, but often on my own or with another member of the British Cycling staff. Usually, when I’m away I try to eat the same things as I’d have at home, but with curry or pizza available at any time, this was quite difficult!
Mostly I’d opt for granola with extra nuts, seeds and berries, and some Greek yoghurt. I love fruit and the options in the dining hall were endless, so I was very happy. Following breakfast I’d walk round to the pool behind our block, to get my morning delicious flat white (whether this was a double shot flat white depended on how many massages I needed to do that day!)
I’d then take half an hour or so to plan my schedule for the day, arrange times for treatments with the riders and then book out a massage couch in the Lion’s Den (The Team England Physiotherapy Centre).
Preparing rider nutrition for the day
My first job each morning was to check timings and the schedules sent out by our Team Manager. The women’s race started at 10.30am, the men’s at 1.30pm, so I’d ensure the team car had everything that it needed for the day. I’d wrap up any ride food (such as flapjack or ricecake) and pop it into the cool box for the day. If we were out all day, I’d also make sure we had some staff lunches, such as sandwiches or wraps, as nobody wants hungry staff!
In the week leading up to the mountain bike race, the riders did a lot of course practice. Due to the heat and intensity of the course, it was important we had enough drinks and nutrition for the athletes. Cooling mechanisms, such as ice towels, were also necessary (it was hot!) so I made sure these were prepared.
We were fortunate that the MTB athletes tended to be very self-sufficient and that the Commonwealth Games facilities were so fantastic. They had ice, drinks and cool boxes on site!
Soft tissue massage in the athlete village
When I wasn’t at races, most of my time was spent within the physiotherapy rooms, where I’d provide soft tissue massage for the athletes almost daily before their events. This helped ensure they felt ready for the race and that no ‘niggles’ or issues were present. The athletes themselves were generally quite relaxed, either talking about their day of training or reflecting on their event that day.
If the schedule allowed I would block out an hour for each athlete, or 45 minutes to flush through the athlete’s legs and work through any other issues. I tend to also travel with acupuncture needles and my IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft tissue Mobilisation) tools, which I find are great for any issues. Mostly, the riders asked for work on their legs – quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.
Compared to other sports at the Commonwealth Games, we’re quite lucky in the fact that cycling’s less impact so injuries are often less common – unless, for example, a rider crashes during course practice. I often use taping where needed, but for the Games the riders were all fit and well.
In the time before the race, my job was to help get the riders ready for the event. I’d tend to do anything they needed, so they didn’t have to worry about anything – especially on race day! I’d also assist by helping to sort some of their nutrition, preparing any ride food they might need, driving to and from courses, doing food shopping, any first aid required and assisting the Team Manager with other logistics.
The women’s race was 7 laps and started at 10.30am. Prior to the race, both Annie Last (who went on to win gold in the women’s MTB event) and Evie Richards, who I’ve worked with a lot previously, were very relaxed, as were the staff. It’s helpful that all the mountain bike athletes are very organised, so everything was in hand and ready for them. Neither seemed nervous, just very focused and determined to perform in the race.
Once the race starts, I’m in the feed zone, passing up bottles and gels to riders as they come through either side. It’s HOT in the Gold Coast sun!
When Annie and Evie came in to take gold and silver, I was running back round from the pit/feed zone with a full cool box, so was able to just catch the finish on one of the large screens. It was a fantastic moment, and all Team England staff were very proud to be involved.
Early evening: Pack up and return to the athlete village
At 4pm, after the last race had finished, we’d pack everything up to return to the athlete village where we’d unload everything into the basement. Now it was time to relax! Down time came in short bursts, so I’d find time to read my book on the balcony or around the pool. I love to swim, and we were lucky to have a pool next to our block, so most nights after treatments I would try to wind down in there and be in bed by 10.30pm.
The atmosphere at the Games was fantastic. It’s was my first multi-sports Games, and to be around so many different athletes from different sports was really exciting. Each day the athlete village had lots of things going on. It was a very busy place, so lots to see and do should you have the time!
I felt very lucky and honoured to be able to support the athletes in the run-up to their events. It’s always such a great atmosphere, but my main aim is to ensure athletes are relaxed, prepared and happy.