Tour of the Dragon today 

Cycling: Three-time winner of the Tour of the Dragon mountain bike race, Sonam, will not compete in the seventh edition of the race that began today from Bumthang.
The 33-year-old cyclist could not take part in race after suffering a shoulder injury during his second international bike race, Bristol BikeFest in the United Kingdom last June.
The 12-hour solo mountain bike race took an early toll on the cyclist. After an hour Sonam had a collision with some other riders landing heavily on his shoulder. However, with all the difficulties Sonam managed to complete the 197km race within 12 hours and finished in the fourth place.
Sonam said that he wanted to train for the upcoming tournaments and he went out for a practice session but during his try-outs, he suffered another injury on the same shoulder.
“The physicians said that I had torn my muscles in the already injured shoulder and asked me to refrain from cycling for at least a year if I want to continue with my passion,” said Sonam.
However, Sonam will still be a part of the competition this year. The cyclist is accompanying HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck during the race providing his expertise and suggestion to the new riders competing this year.
A total of 47 riders are taking part in the seventh edition of race, the largest number so far for the competition. The competition this year saw 25 new entries including 20 international riders from America, Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, India and the United Kingdom.
Considered to be the toughest one-day mountain bike race in the world, Tour of the Dragon covers 268km across four mountain passes ranging from 1,200 to 3,340 metres.
The race starts in Bumthang, located some 2,610m from where the riders follow the Bumthang chhu for a couple of kilometres and then climb 6km through a blue pine forest to Kiki La at 2,870m.
Riders reach Yotongla located at 3,430m, the highest point of the race which is then followed by 29km of going downhill till Trongsa. From Trongsa the road descends gently for 7km to the Bjee bridge at 1,900m.
Officials from the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) said that due to the ongoing road widening process and the monsoon, road conditions have become unpredictable. With the weather forecast suggesting further downpour in this region, all precautionary measures are in place for the safety of the riders wherever necessary, said officials.
Some 1,000 volunteers including health workers, officials from the Department of Roads, RSTA, DeSuung, and students are deployed to help the riders if necessary.
BOC officials said that given the poor road conditions, the race is expected to be completed within 13 to 14 hours. Last year Sonam completed the race in 11 hours, 55 minutes and 52 seconds.
The race began at 2am this morning from Bumthang and will end at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu.
Younten Tshedup 

Canadian tops Tour of the Dragon

Cycling: In his maiden appearance in the world’s toughest one-day mountain bike race, Tour of the Dragon, Cory Wallace from Canada finished first, completing the race in 13 hours 2 minutes and 5 seconds.
Following the Canadian, two Nepalese riders, Rajkumar Shrestha and Buddhi Bhadur Tamang completed the race in 13 hours 39 minutes 59 seconds and 13 hours 57 minutes 34 seconds, respectively.
The race this year was relatively tougher because of the ongoing road widening process along the Trongsa-Thimphu highway and incessant rainfall.
Almost completely drenched in mud, 33-year-old Cory, sipping on a guava juice, exits the massage tent. The Canadian is totally drained out of energy. “One of the toughest times I experienced on a bike,” he said.
Cory arrived in the country three days prior to the race day. One of the elite riders in his country and specialised in tough mountain races, Cory Wallace has won several international mountain bike races including some of the most challenging races across the globe.
The 268km race across four mountain passes ranging from 1,200 to 3,340 metres above sea level, Tour of the Dragon, still remained unconquered for the Canadian. However, it was just a matter of time until Cory added another successful record to his resume.
“I’ve experienced many races in my career, from the extremes of weathers to different geographical areas but never had I experienced so much of mud during a race,” he said.
He added that at some point of the race, riders were knee-deep in mud walking and pushing their bikes. “I thought that if we had to do the same thing during the full race, it would be very difficult to complete the race.”
Riding his Kona Honzo 29er hard-tail bike, Cory started in a group of five for an hour or so from Bumthang. It was after some 20kms of descending from Yotongla that the Canadian took the lead. For the next nine hours till the finish line at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu, Cory rode alone in the race.
“There is no better way to see this beautiful country than on a bike,” he said. “The experience has gone beyond my expectations.”
Those who made the cut-off time of reaching Dochula, the final checkpoint of the race by 6am, were entitled for the prize money.   A total of 19 riders from 47 riders officially completed the race.
Although non of the Bhutanese could make it in the top three positions, the remaining 4th to 8th positions went to Bhutanese riders. Norbu finished the race in 14 hours 4 minutes 40 seconds followed by Karma after 11 minutes.
Tashi Namgay, Rinchen Norbu and Sherub Dorji completed the race in 14 hours 32 minutes, 15 hours 4 minutes 36 seconds and 15 hours 13 minutes and 35 seconds, respectively.
From 19 riders who completed the race, 11 were Bhutanese.
Younten Tshedup 

Amici del Bhutan - Italy