About

The Tour of the Dragon is a ONE DAY 255 km mile mountain bike race staged on mountain roads in the majestic inner Himalayas of the Buddhist country of Bhutan. It is the hardest one day mountain bike race in the world. It travels 255 Kilometers Across 4 High Mountain Passes ranging from 1200 meters to 3340 meters.

The Course

The races starts in Bumthang, central Bhutan (2610 m, 8560 ft). The riders follow the Bumthang chhu (river in Dzongkha) for a couple of kilometers and then climb 6 kms through blue pine forest to Kiki La at 2870 m (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 (2950 m, 9680 ft).

The road then climbs 7 kms up through blue pine forest to Bong Bridge and then gets a little steeper for about 5 kms through mixed conifer and rhododendron forests and pastures till you reach Yotongla at 3430 m (11250 ft). From Yotongla it is a 29 kms 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 broad leaved forest dominated by birch and oaks and rhododendrons. Below Dorji Gonpa, the road passes though broad leaved forests 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 (2150 m, 7050 ft) you pass right below the Ta Dzong (a watchtower to guard the dzong from enemies).

From Trongsa the road descents gently for 7 kms to the Bjee Zam bridge at 1900 m (6230 ft) and then climbs 6 kms through broad leaved forests to a view point from where the Trongsa Dzong seems just a stone throw away. The road continues climbing for another 10 kms along cliffs and through broad leaved 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 20 kms you will only climb some 150m (500 ft), but there are some ups and downs. As you near Chendebji, hemlock replaces broad leaved species on some of the ridges and in the valley. You pass Chendebji chorten and a little later will reach Chendebji village (2430 m, 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 (3430 m, 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 kms down, there is a single restaurant a further 12 km down and then a few shops at Teki Zampa another 15 kms further. Just past here a new Japanese bridge spans the Dang Chhu. After a long almost flat stretch you reach Wangdue Phodrang.

From Wangdue Phodrang, you continue to Metshina, at an altitude of 1410 m (4625 ft). From Metshina, the distance to Dochula at 3150 m (10,330 ft) is 38.3 kms 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 kms), Lumitsawa (15 kms), Lampiri (28km) and a memorial chorten for traffic accident victims (32 kms). 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 is all downhill to Thimphu at 2330 m (7640 ft) with a small climb only at the end to the clock tower at Changlingmethang parking.

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Start Point Elevation m (ft) End Point Elevation m (ft) Highest Point m Distance in Kms
Jakar town 2610 (8560) Gaytsha 2950 (9680) Kiki la – 2870 27.5
Gaytsha 2950 (9680) Trongsa 2150 (7050) Yotong la – 3434 40.2
Trongsa 2150 (7050) Chendebji 2430 (7970) Chendebji – 2440 40.8
Chendebji 2430 (7970) Wangdue Phodrang 1200 (3940) Pele la – 3430 82
Wangdue Phodrang 1200 (3940) Thimphu 2330 (7640) Dochula – 3150 69
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© 2020. All Rights Reserved. Photos courtesy of Red Bulletin/Justin Bastien