|September 5, 2015|
|Thimphu, Bhutan [large map] 27.4728, 89.6393|
Tour of the Dragon
The Tour of the Dragon starts in Bumthang and travels 268km over 4 mountain passes before finishing in Thimphu town square. Billed as one of the toughest one day mountain bike races in the world
Both events finish in the capital city of Thimphu in the country of Bhutan.
The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan is a land of high mountains and deep valleys where compassion and wisdom are the benchmark against which all things are measured, and where the King rules by ‘Gross National Happiness’.
On your journey through the stunning rural countryside and villages, you’ll discover the geographical and cultural wonders of a country naturally designed to be a tantalizing destination for adventure and spiritual seekers.
Come for the event, and stay for the travel experience of a lifetime.
The riders follow the Bumthang chhu (river in Dzongkha) for a couple of kilometers and then climb 6km through blue pine forest to Kiki La at 2870m (9420 ft). From there it is down to Nangar. Through more blue pine forest and agricultural land you follow a gentle road through Chumey and up to Gaytsha (2950m, 9680ft).
The road then climbs 7 km up through blue pine forest to Bong Bridge and then gets a little steeper for about 5 km through mixed conifer and rhododendron forests and pastures till you reach Yotongla at 3430m (11250 ft). From Yotongla it is a 29 km downhill ride to Trongsa. The pass is dominated by fir and rhododendron forest, open pastures and rock outcrops. As you go down to Dorji Gonpa, which is almost halfway, firs give way to spruce and hemlock and mixed broadleaved forest dominated by birch and oaks and rhododendrons. Below Dorji Gonpa, the road passes though broadleaved forest and agricultural fields. There are some excellent viewpoints to see Trongsa, the Dzong and the extensive forests and agricultural fields beyond. Just before reaching Trongsa (2150m, 7050ft) you pass right below the Ta Dzong (a watchtower to guard the dzong from enemies).
From Trongsa the road descents gently for 7 km to the Bjee Zam bridge at 1900m (6230 ft) and then climbs 6 km through broadleaved forest to a view point from where the Trongsa Dzong seems just a stone throw away. The road continues climbing for another 10km along cliffs and through broadleaved forests and agricultural settlements. At Tshangkha it passes the headquarters of the Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park. After reaching Tashiling, a few km further, most of the climbing is done. For the last 20km you will only climb some 150m (500 ft), but there are some ups and downs. As you near Chendebji, hemlock replaces broadleaved species on some of the ridges and in the valley. You pass Chendebji chorten and a little later will reach Chendebji village (2430m, 7970 ft).
The road climbs through mixed conifer forest past Nikachu bridge at Chazam and Rukubji to the small settlement of Longte. By this time much of the trees have been replaced by pastures and agricultural fields. Through these pastures dominated by dwarf bamboo you reach Pelela (3430m, 11250 ft). You then continue your long descent through fir, birch, rhododendron forest and many small waterfalls to Wangdue Phodrang. After passing the village of Nobding, 12 km down, there is a single restaurant a further 12 km down and then a few shops at Teki Zampa another 15 km further. Just past here a new Japanese bridge spans the Dang Chhu. At Chuzomsa, there is a side road to an abandoned slate mine. After a long almost flat stretch you reach Wangdue Phodrang.
From Wangdue Phodrang, you continue to Metshina, an altitude of 1410m (4625 ft). From Metshina, the distance to Dochula at 3150m (10,330 ft) is 38.3 km and the race is all uphill with an average slope of 5% and a few short sections of up to 10%. You will pass Thinleygang (11 km), Lumitsawa (15km), Lampiri (28km) and a memorial chorten for traffic accident victims (32km). Thinleygang is the only place recognizable as a village, having a couple of shops and a BHU (Basic Health Unit). Racing 1700 m (5575 ft) uphill is as breathtaking as the views.
After Dochula, it all downhill to Thimphu at 2330 m (7640 ft) with a small climb only at the end to the Thimphu city square.
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