This year’s Tour of the Dragon was a grand success. At 2:00 AM on Saturday, 45 riders representing 15 teams took off from the town square in Chamkhar and raced towards Thimphu. 28 of the riders managed to complete the grueling one-day, 268 km mountain bike race from Bumthang to Thimphu.
Last year’s fool – the rider who fell off his bike in Trongsa, but stubbornly rode on to complete the race – fared better this time. He didn’t fall. And he clocked a decent 14 hours 16 minutes to complete the race.
But this year’s Tour had better highlights. Here are a few of them:
- Eight riders broke last year’s record of 13 hours 39 minutes. Sonam Tshering owns the new record at an astonishing 11 hours 31 minutes. (That, incidentally, is how long some motorists take to make the journey from Bumthang to Thimphu!)
- Yeshi Dema, the only female rider to take part in the Tour, became the first lady to complete the race. She took 17 hours 11 minutes.
- Pema Khandu, aged 18, was this year’s youngest rider. He rode the 111 km to Chendebji before calling it a day.
- Colonel Tawpo, aged 59 years, was this year’s oldest rider. He completed the epic journey in what must have been a torturous 18 hours 25 minutes. He rode into Thimphu at 8:25 PM long after the prize distribution ceremony had ended.
- 857 volunteers (comprising of teachers, students, civil servants and businessmen and women) lined the route to point out potholes and unexpected bumps, direct traffic, distribute water and food, and to generally cheer the riders on.
- HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck did not compete in the race. He rode, but did not compete. Instead – and in spite of his competitive nature – he chose to support and encourage the riders. He checked on every rider who fell off his bike. And he accompanied most of the riders who struggled through the difficult stages of the race. In the process, he probably rode more than the race’s 268 kilometers.
Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers, RSTA officials, traffic police, Dzongkhag authorities and, above all, the Bhutan Olympic Committee, this year’s Tour of the Dragon was a grand success. Well done.