Tour of the Dragon
For the adventurous tourist who travels best pedaling wheels, it’s good news that biking expeditions are fast becoming a staple in Bhutan.
If one’s up for turning the sense of adventure a notch higher, the one-day Tour of the Dragon, mountain bike race is the answer.
It is the toughest one-day mountain bike race in the world, passing through altitudes ranging from 1,200m to 3,340m and over four mountain passes from central to western Bhutan. One has to cover 268km to complete the race.
Along the way one is exposed to rain, sleet, the cold and the heat, and this is one time one cannot differentiate which one is better, racing downhill or climbing uphill, or driving one of the few plain stretches with plenty of potholes on an already narrow road. Then there are those hairpin curves and blind spots one has to tackle and maneuver. The mountains have it all.
But that is not all that the race offers. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to ride in the Himalayas, showcasing the mountain ranges, the blue pine forests, mixed conifer forests, broad leaf forests, pastures, idyllic villages, cattle, centuries-old temples and medieval fortresses and the sight of the clouds floating amid the mountains and meandering rivers flowing in the valley.
The Tour of the Dragon has, since it began in 2012 gained popularity among cyclist from around the world. Each year participants from various countries come in for the race. This year’s race had 46 participants, including international cyclists from Japan, Switzerland, Nepal, Canada, USA, Mexico, Australia, Netherlands and Germany. 24 completed the race.
A Nepalese cyclist broke the previous year’s record, finishing the race in 10 hours and 42 minutes, which was 40 minutes faster. The race flags of in the wee hours, at 2 am from Chamkhar town in Bumthang. The race ends in the Capital, after cyclists cover 16 aid stations in five districts of Bumthang, Trongsa, Wangduephodrang, Punakha and Thimphu.
The first three winners are awarded cash prizes.
The race was created by His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, President of the Bhutan Olympic Committee.
The race is held on the first Saturday of September every year. This is the perfect time for the race as the monsoon is retreating, the air is crisp and clean, and the heat less intense.