TAC: Having been chiropractor to Lance Armstrong and the Postal and Discovery Channel Professional Cycling Teams for all seven of Lance’s Tour de France victories, what prompted your return to France this past July to again work with the Discovery Channel Professional Cycling Team at the 2007 Tour de France?
Spencer: From the beginning, my commitment to Lance had always been to do everything possible to support him in his quest to win as many of the Tours de France as his career would allow. After he won his seventh Tour in 2005, we both retired from professional cycling. It was the pinnacle of the greatest dynasty in the history of sport.
The following year, in 2006, the Discovery Team had a horrible Tour and lost more riders to injury in that one Tour than we lost in the seven previous Tours combined. That really bothered me and was completely unacceptable because I knew from my Tour experience that any injury, short of a severely broken bone or massive concussion, could be managed allowing the rider to remain competitive and make it to the finish in Paris.
After their dismal ’06 Tour, I was asked by the Discovery Team if I would consider supporting the team again in the ’07 Tour, if given the opportunity. I said I would and told them to consider me there. In my own mind, though, I knew the challenges of gearing up for and spending the entire month of July in France: no sleep, blood and guts, different hotels every night, and forever dealing with every conceivable human emotion. These circumstances, however, are what make the Tour the most extraordinary human experience possible and something that had become an indelible part of my psyche and being. There’s nothing more exhilarating than being part of a group committed to excellence, having the freedom to doing what you’re best at 24 hours a day, and being with people you really care about and they care about you. The Tour, to me, has always been the ultimate clinic.
Honestly, I felt an obligation to return to the Tour. First, I wanted to support Johan Bruyneel, the team director, as he and I linked up with Lance in 1999 for our first of seven Tour victories and I needed to fulfill my personal obligation to finish the job we started. It was also important because Johan had always given me complete freedom to implement the full scope of my clinical skills at the Tour. Secondly, I wanted the riders I had worked with during the Lance years to have the continuity of care necessary for them to have the best careers possible. And, finally, it was important for me to support the team doing a Lanceless Tour.
TAC: You’ve been called “Dr. Magic” by the Postal and Discovery teams and “Part doctor, part guru, part medicine man” by Lance in his book, Every Second Counts. Why do you think you have been described as such?
Spencer: Actually, I’ve never really thought about it. But, yes, the team did call me Dr. Magic. I’d often been told by the team that they believed I could fix any and everything the Tour threw at us. Maybe that’s why. That’s nice of them to say, but, obviously, had a very high standard to live up to. For sure, hearing that gave me incentive to continually seek and implement new and innovative ways of exceeding the expectation of what’s possible in addressing the challenges of the Tour. Personally, the most gratifying words I could hear at the Tour was someone saying to me the following morning after a rider had sustained a terrible injury that “the injury must not have been as bad as we originally thought.” In most cases, in fact, the injuries were far worse than the public knew. The difference between what they thought and what was were the recovery strategies I brought to the Tour that dramatically accelerated the healing and recovery processes and, as importantly, when used proactively, reduced the risk of injury and put daily recovery from racing into the supersonic mode.
TAC: How does the 2007 Tour de France victory compare in importance to the other seven victories you participated in?
Spencer: Each Tour victory was equally important but number eight was special in its own way. It was, in a sense, a true test of the strength and efficacy of the team’s ability to win the Tour without Lance. Lance is a phenomenal leader and incomparable as an athlete. His ability to win is unmatched. The enormity of his achievement of winning seven consecutive Tours is equivalent to winning seven consecutive Superbowls, Boston Marathons, or Kentucky Derbies. His accomplishment is so big it’s almost impossible to conceive of, let alone, put it in its proper context. The fact that we won in ’07 was a great confirmation that the team had the leadership, infrastructure, personnel and mentality to step up and win and that the system allowed it to happen. When people are in agreement and the organization template is in place, miracles can happen.
TAC: Please describe a typical day for you at the Tour.
Spencer: I’m up around six in the morning and get my equipment and hands ready to go to work on the riders following up on the previous night’s care. Most often, I’ll begin with the riders after they’re done with breakfast and then continue my work on the bus ride to the start by adjusting, lasering, taping, sticking, and providing the care to make sure the riders show up at the start 100% ready to put in the ride of their lives.
After the riders start that day’s stage, I snooze on the bus driving to the finish to meet the riders after they finish the stage.
Once the riders are on the bus, I’ll triage and immediately start injury management and recovery procedures and continue the process until we reach that night’s hotel. Once at the hotel, I resume with care, take a short dinner break, and then finish with the riders around 11 pm. Then, I’ll clean up and ready my equipment for the following morning’s work and get to bed around 12:30-1 am.
TAC: Were there any extraordinary challenges you faced at the Tour in ’07?
Spencer: Actually, there were many. But, the most horrific were the severe lacerations a rider received on his arm, elbow, wrist, finger, and chin sustained when he crashed through a team car’s rear window several kilometers from the finish. At the crash site, the Tour medical staff bandaged him up so he could finish the stage, enabling him to start the next day’s race. One of our team’s directors told me he was severely injured and to expect the worst. When he got to the team bus, the volume of blood spewing from the bandages was staggering. Immediately, our medical doctor and Tour medics raced him to the hospital where he was stabilized, heavily stitched, and bandaged. When he got back to the hotel from the hospital, he looked like a mummy from the bandages, and, essentially, the team had written him off, believing his injuries would prevent him from starting the following day.
However, in my experience, it’s never over until it’s over, and there was enough reason to believe that, with the technology and resources I had, I could create the healing necessary within the next twelve hours for him to start and finish the day’s stage. So, I treated him all night using every trick in my play book and, as hoped, he was able to start and finish the next day’s race and go on to finish in Paris. It was, without a doubt, one of the highlights of my Tour career.
TAC: Why were the Postal and Discovery Professional Cycling Teams so dominant?
Spencer: The teams were never trapped by their traditions or histories and had the best leadership minds and spirits in Johan and Lance. Every year, we adapted our preparation and race strategy to accommodate the current team dynamic and circumstances. We never tried to duplicate what was done the previous year, knowing that those approaches may be obsolete in the current year. We knew how to control fear, embrace risk, think big, trust in our preparation, and believe in ourselves as winners to successfully engage and surmount all obstacles put in our path at the Tour. There was a great fellowship and mutual commitment among everyone to give the best of ourselves without hesitation every second of each twenty-two day Tour. That agreement produced a team dynamic that superceded the sum of the team’s parts by an exponential margin.
Another part of the team’s success was team personnel selection. People were chosen for their compatibility as team members as much as for their talent. There was never any self-interest.
TAC: What clinical skills are necessary to become a sports chiropractor?
Spencer: It’s imperative to have a non-redundant tool kit of clinical strategies to address every eventuality that could possibly arise in competition. In my model, that includes that capacity to aggressively control pain and inflammation, dramatically accelerate tissue repair, rehab injured structures back into the locomotor patterns quickly, and discharge hidden mechanical, energetic, and biochemical disturbances that steal energy and nutrients from training, recovering, and competing. My basic clinical tool kit consists of a variety of adjusting techniques, 5mw low level lasers, Kinesiotape, supplements, earthing, the Stick, and frequency specific microcurrent.
TAC: Do you have any advice for chiropractors who would like to become involved with sports?
Spencer: First, become proficient at the diagnosis and care of common sports injuries. Next, become a master at resolving the inflammatory, fibroblastic repair, tissue remodeling, locomotor rehab, and wellness/prevention phases of care. Thirdly, be well versed in spine and extremity adjusting techniques and innovative modalities such as the laser, microcurrent, and other innovative healing technologies. And, finally, learn nutritional supplement strategies to support injury recovery, energy production, and health maintenance, athletic taping techniques, and rehabilitation methods to get and keep athletes performing at their best.
TAC: What do you see for the future of chiropractic in sports?
Spencer: I believe chiropractic in sports is indispensable and unlimited, provided the objective of care is to optimize the athlete’s performance potential. History has shown that a sports chiropractor’s success is dependent on the service they provide. To me, the most successful sports chiros are those that simultaneously address injury management, proactive injury prevention, and proactive wellness care. This approach produces an athlete who consistently performs at their best, not only improving their results but, also, extending their careers. The objective of care is everything. My sole goal in care is to develop an athlete’s mind and body to the point they produce perfect energy efficient, strain free motion against gravity in 3D with each pedal stroke and stride they take. My approach is simple. First, I look to remove distortion from the body, then maximize cell communication so body regulatory processes are running at peak capacity, and, finally, generate maximum energy for body growth, tissue repair, and movement. Once achieved, the athlete will perform at his or her best consistently and be less vulnerable to injury and illness.
TAC: You’ve got a new book out titled Turn It Up! How to Perform at Your Highest Level for a Lifetime. Tell us about it.
Spencer: The concept behind the book is to share with others the proven methodology I’ve used to consistently create success with my clients over the last thirty years. I’ve had the good fortune to work with some of the most prolific successes on the planet and have learned a lot about winning, reaching goals, and creating success, and I want to share that with others. The book presents a twelve-point personal success strategy that I’ve used to take my clients to the top and keep them there. It’s an easily followed step by step method that I believe is a must read for all doctors and their patients. In that respect, it’s the perfect patient gift. In fact, I know many doctors who actually give the books as gifts to their patients. And, if what people are telling me is true, then most of us want more out of life than we now have and know we’re capable of it. It’s just that most of us don’t know how to get there. This book is about getting and staying there.