In case you didn’t get the memo, 29-year-old Vincenzo Nibali of Sicily, Italy won the 2014 Tour de France last month. Rightfully known as the “Shark of Messina,” he was able to outperform 218 other cyclists to finish first in the world’s largest bike race. Nibali finished the race with a lead of more than seven minutes, which is the biggest winning margin since 1997.
But here’s something that you probably didn’t know about Nibali and his team: they were the only team at the 2014 Tour de France to bring their own licensed acupuncturist. Throughout the course of the physically enduring race, an acupuncturist treated Nibali and his team, usually twice a day. Nibali and his team would receive a treatment in the morning before they raced and another at night while they were relaxing and resting in the hotel.
So, how much of an advantage did acupuncture give Nibali? According to his acupuncturist, this therapeutic treatment was just one element of the cycling star’s success, citing that the “whole team” is important.
“He’s convinced that it’s something that can help him. I don’t want to exaggerate my part, or the part of acupuncture. It’s the whole team, the doctors are important, the osteopath is important, I’m a small part of it — but also, the bus driver, the cook. Nibali has often seemed calm, unfazed, and relaxed. Is that due to the acupuncture? I don’t know, you’ll have to draw that conclusion,” said Eddy De Smedt, Belgium-based acupuncturist, who treated Nibali and the other athletes on the Kazakh team.
De Smedt noted that Nibali’s acupuncture sessions were usually about 25-30 minutes, and it wasn’t uncommon for the 2014 Tour de France winner to fall asleep during the procedure. Of course, that’s to be expected given the fact that the Tour de France stretches over 2,200 miles. Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or not, the human body begins to shut down from the sheer work that goes into this race. Nibali’s found relief in acupuncture, however, and it likely played a role in his ability to win by a landscape of seven plus minutes.
Will acupuncture make you win the next Tour de France? Probably not, but it can certainly relieve pain, reduce stress, fight inflammation, and encourage wounds to heal faster. Nibali’s story is just one of many in which acupuncture helps individuals overcome the odds.