Tour of the dragon

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.

Devika Darjee

A winner

Almost 200 of you took part in the poll to decide who would be our sportsperson of the year. Thank you for voting. And thank you for your many comments. I closed the poll at midnight on the last day of January.

The race was close. Ugyen Yoeser (cycling) and Devika Darjee (cricket) ran neck and neck in our informal competition. Eventually Devika won, but by barely a whisker – she secured 55 votes against Ugyen’s 53.

Devika Darjee was the only lady among my nominees for the sportsperson of 2010. She beat nine men to the top spot. Congratulations.

Devika wins Nu 25,000. She should contact me by email to claim her prize.

The prize money comes from the Nu 200,000 I collected for completing the Tour of the Dragon, a bicycle race from Bumthang to Thimphu. All of it is being spent on social work, especially to promote sports.

 Photo credit: Kuensel

Tour of the Dragon

At Pelela

Twenty-five bikers took part in the inaugural Tour of the Dragon yesterday.

The Dragon, a one-day bicycle ride from Bumthang to Thimphu, crosses 4 passes, all of them over 3,000 meters, and covers 268 kilometers through five dzongkhags. The breathtaking route offers an elevation gain of 4,000 meters, a whopping half of which is on the final ascent from Wangdiphodrang bridge to Dochula.

The Tour of the Dragon must be one of the more beautiful one-day bike rides in the world. It’s probably one of the most difficult ones too.

The official records are not yet out, but more than half of the participants completed yesterday’s ride. Ugen Yozer rode in first. Rinzin Norbu second. And HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck, the inspiration of the Tour, third.

As everyone knows, virtually any bike race worth its salt will feature a casualty. And so it was with the inaugural Tour of the Dragon.

A biker came barreling down to Trongsa, 68 km from the start of the race. He looked left then right at the small group of spectators, ostensibly to see if any of them planned to cross the road. But what the fool didn’t see was a bump on the road. That bump threw him off. And he landed squarely on his jaw.

The medical team stitched him up and attended to his bruises. And about an hour and a half later the fool rejoined the race.

I was that crazy fool.

The Tour of the Dragon will take place on the first Saturday of every September.

Photo credit: Karma Loday, CEO, Yangphel Travel