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The Tour of the Dragon MTB race is held in exotic Bhutan in the Himalayas

In case you missed my first post on the lead up to this race: click here

Looking around in the dark I could see some of the people I met earlier during our social program of the Tour of the Dragon in Bhutan, the small Himalayan kingdom that strives for "National Happiness".

There was Sabrina, the Judoka that had come back from the Olympic Games just a few days before (!), Piet, the bearded fellow-Dutchy, a race-veteran that provided me with some valuable tips; there was Sonam, the local favourite, and there Cory Wallace - the favourite by far to win the race from Canada (he currently is the 24 hour world champion), and around 50 of the other competitors.

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Piet, Sabrina, the Prince, 'et moi'

So everybody turned up in the centre of town, in the middle of a gloomy cold night; thank god the rain had stopped! The town was buzzing though, this is one of the major happenings in this little town, and everybody was up and about, chatting, making food and generally having a good time. I checked my lights for the hundredth time, checked my bike and myself, "ready as can be" - was the conclusion. Then a loud count down and we were off!!!

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Start of the race

Normally my intention to pace myself in the beginning goes out of the window at the first minute after the start, but somehow that didn't happen this time, I know this was going to be a tough ordeal and wanted to 'ease into it'. The race starts with an uphill on a good tarmac road, and all was well. There were plenty of people around and you could see the road clearly.

Once we reached the top of the hill though, everything changed. Mist came in, the road turned to mud. I could hardly see anything and my glasses were fogging up. After a few sketchy moments, I decided to fully make use of my brakes on the downhills, I really had to slow down to survive. I passed some big black blobs at high speed, and it took me some time to figure out those were cows standing in the middle of the road. My heartrate instantly went up with 20 beats. I was slowly getting cold, even though I was wearing plenty of clothes. Normally it is the other way round, but this time I was looking forward to the uphills, as this would be a chance to warm up again.

Finally the sun came up, the mist slowly cleared and I was able to see where I was going. The views were amazing, I had done one of the 4 humongous mountain passes already and things were looking up. Then a car passed me and I realized it was the Prince of Bhutan cheering me on! I knew he would ride sections of the race, and I hoped to get a chance to ride with him later. He was riding a Specialized, specifically designed for him, with some cool “Bhutanese” markings, including a dragon.

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The Prince of Bhutan cheering me on, captured on my GoPro

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Race day, photo credit:

Below a little more information on the race, keep on the lookout for my next post on the race!!!!!

The Tour of the dragon
The Tour of the Dragon is an annual MTB race (held around September) in the exotic country of Bhutan in the Himalaya region. The 268mkm race starts in Bumthang, central Bhutan (2610 m, 8560 ft), and takes you to Thimphu across 4 mountain passes. There are many numbers floating around in regard to the total elevation, but I think it is around 4,000 meters. Expect to do a lot of climbing on extremely long, gradual climbs, with amazing views, in a magic landscape.

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For more information:


photos are my own, unless specified otherwise