Overseas triathlon insurance: Why you should read the small-print

A recent crash in Ironman 70.3 Mallorca throws a spotlight on insurance for overseas races and making sure you have the right level of cover

illustration of broken hand with triathlete falling through it

When Dan headed out to Ironman 70.3 Mallorca recently, he had bike cover from Velosure, travel insurance from Admiral and British Triathlon’s ‘Ultimate’ membership – its highest level.

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Having flipped over the handlebars during the race, undergone four hours of surgery, and endured a 48-hour stay in hospital, he was discharged with a bill for €15k. Save £250 of payout from British Triathlon for the broken bones, the insurance didn’t cover the medical costs.

Why not? His travel insurance from Admiral excludes sporting events. The Velosure policy’s focused on the bike rather than the being. The BTF membership covers features such as liability and even loss of earnings, but critically isn’t there to pay medical expenses either.

What about the Global Health Insurance Card, the free health care card that can be used to access state-provided healthcare when you’re visiting an EU country or Switzerland? Dan was taken to a private hospital in a private ambulance, so it didn’t apply.

What about Ironman as the race organiser? Sadly, while they might charge a good chunk for entry, none of this covers personal injury. The only recourse might be if the racing environment was unsafe, but that claim would be served far more easily through personal insurance.

Judging from the online comments on this incident, it looks as if many more could have made the same mistake. How many of us will check our own policies after this?

“We’re trying to educate people that if you’re doing a race or going on a training camp you need the extra cover,” says Will Leedham from specialist insurer Yellow Jersey. “Find out exactly what your policy covers. If it’s not clear from the policy wording, give them a call. Are you covered when cycling is the primary purpose of the trip? How is a sportive classified? If they cover triathlon, do they have a maximum race distance?”

Leedham also states that the chances of regular travel insurance ever covering a triathlon are slim. For a specialist policy, the cost for a seven-day trip would be around £40. Depending how often you plan to race, annual cover could work out cheaper.

Most twin this cover with a separate annual bike insurance policy that helps with loss, damage and features such as covering costs if your bike is stolen from transition.

One bright side of Dan’s cautionary tale is how the tri community has rallied round. His friend Sam Tomkins from the Endurance Coaching Group started a GoFundMe page which is currently almost a third of the way to covering his costs.

As for the rest of us, a reminder to make sure that heading to the next training camp or race, it’s not only our bodies that should be fit for purpose, but our insurance too.

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Top illustration: Daniel Seex for 220Triathlon