“Standing in the pit, craning my neck to watch the first 100m of the race on the big screen I was excited to see how the European champs would pan out for Helen. I turned my back to take up my position as pit man, and a few seconds later, I was told Helen had had a serious crash. I immediately rushed to find Helen on the course.
“She was in an alarming condition; her helmet badly smashed, and in extreme pain. She had no idea where she was, and couldn’t hold or remember any information for more than a few seconds. She couldn’t see me, but could hear me. It’s pretty scary, especially when it’s your wife.” Stefan Wyman
On the 6th of October 2016, Helen Wyman was preparing for the Cyclocross World Championships in the Belgian town of Heusden-Zolder.
As one of Britain’s most successful cyclocross riders – with over a decade racing as a professional, 9 UK National Champion jerseys, and 2 European Championship victories – this should have been just another day at the office.
We asked Helen about the crash, and her experiences of claiming through Yellow Jersey Travel Insurance while coping with serious injuries.
You were involved in a serious collision with another rider at the start of the 2016 European Championships. Can you tell us a little bit about what happened to you on the day?
Shortly after starting the European Championships in 2016, I was involved in a crash. I’m still not entirely sure of the exact details, but another rider’s foot came out of their pedal, and ended up in my front wheel. I didn’t see it happening as they were coming from behind, but the result was me going over the handlebars, and I ended up stopping on a gravel surface. I was most likely travelling around 40kmph or a little more at the time. With no time to react or even realise it was going to happen, my head and right shoulder took the full force of the crash.
My collarbone was broken, both knees were in a bad way, shoulder wrecked, and my face was pretty badly cut and grazed. I have no memory of the crash, and for a few hours I had no short term memory at all. I still actually have a few memory issues from it, but I consider myself lucky it wasn’t worse.
The news that your crash was more serious than a bit of gravel rash came out quite quickly after the race. What were the extent of your injuries?
My shoulder wasn’t broken, but the damage and depth of the injury led to an infection in my shoulder which took about 5 or 6 weeks to clear. My collarbone was broken and required a plate and pin repair. My face required minor surgery to fix, as did both knees. It wasn’t a simple set of injuries, with my mobility seriously affected for many weeks.
Did you need to make use of your travel insurance cover during your treatment and return home to France?
I was taken to hospital by ambulance from the race after 45 minutes of emergency treatment at the venue by the French team doctor. The crash happened in North West France on Sunday, and I was released from hospital that night despite a heavy concussion. Everybody I’ve seen since from the medical profession has been pretty horrified I was released, but that’s the way it was. The following day I called my sports doctor in Belgium who saw me that night (a 9 hour drive later). That was the Monday evening, and he arranged for me have surgery on Wednesday. It wasn’t possible before as it was a National Holiday in Belgium. At that point my husband called Yellow Jersey and explained the situation.
It was the first time we’d needed to call upon Yellow Jersey, thankfully. We weren’t sure what to expect, and it was a stressful time. But the service was amazing. Calm and helpful, and always putting my health first. Some forms to complete followed, and we were instructed what to ask for in the hospital. We were even able to allow the hospital to deal direct with the insurance company to avoid being the middleman, allowing me to focus fully on recovery, and not worry about paying invoices.
It was explained to us quickly and clearly what would be covered, including other areas like hotel expenses resulting from the change of plans. It was all a big relief.
How did you and Stefan find the process of making a claim on your insurance?
The process continued to be simple, even after I’d returned home to France to recover post-surgery. I had several doctor consultations, as well as a trip to Belgium to get clearance from the surgeon to start riding again. The process was simple, especially so as the communication was so clear.
How important do you think it is to have cover for the costs of emergency medical care while competing overseas?
I don’t think it’s just important to have cover, I think it’s essential. I simply would never consider travelling without it. The financial implications of an accident abroad can be huge, sometimes more life changing than the injury itself. I have the peace of mind of knowing my cover is applicable for racing, as well as training. It’s a major factor that keeps me with Yellow Jersey as they have the expertise to understand what I’m doing in all areas of cycling, and I’m therefore certain I’m always covered.
How has your recovery been since the crash?
The recovery has been long. I was able to return to racing 12 week after the crash, but was nowhere near race fit. I just needed to race a bike for my own mind. I finished 16th at the world champs the following week. I took a steady approach to building back up over the summer months, I really was starting at a low level of fitness. I’d lost some muscle and my shoulder/collarbone is still a minor issue now, given it’s the shoulder I carry my bike on in cyclocross.
I still have the plate in, and hopefully that can remain there until after I’ve finished racing. It’s not too noticeable, and I just wear a protective pad over it now during events. But a crash like this and the resulting costs could easily have finished a rider’s career, and that’s not exaggerating.
I’m extremely grateful I was covered.
“I don’t think it’s just important to have cover, I think it’s essential. I simply would never consider travelling without it.” Helen Wyman
Helen is of course a professional rider. She is competing at the highest level from the US to Europe, week in, week out; but even as amateur riders we face similar risks.
A simple mistake at a cyclocross race, triathlon, mountain biking event or even a sportive can lead to serious consequences. Should you injure yourself while riding or racing overseas, your Yellow Jersey Travel Insurance is covering you for the costs of emergency medical care and repatriation.
The last thing you need while coping with injury away from home is the financial burden of a cycling accident where bills can quickly escalate. In the same way we need extra cover while skiing and snowboarding, we need specialist cover while cycling overseas.
While most travel insurance will include some form of cover for cycling, they almost all exclude any kind of timed event. In many cases, if cycling is the primary reason for your trip it will be excluded from your cover. EHIC, the European Health Insurance Card, will only cover your medical costs at a state run hospital, a rare commodity in certain parts of Europe, especially in mountainous regions.
Our Cycle Travel Insurance policy was written specifically to provide the medical cover our riders needed when riding outside the UK.