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June 27, 2012

Death Race: Cyclists Brave Bhutan’s Tour of the Dragon

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

Thimphu, Bhutan – Reported by Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

Returning for its third year, the grueling one-day mountain bike race, Tour of the Dragon, will take to the Himalayas once again this September.

Nicknamed the ‘death race’ by cyclists for its rapidly changing altitudes over wild and rugged terrain, the Tour of the Dragon is a 286-kilometer (166-mile) race through the high mountain passes of the kingdom of Bhutan. The race is 3 kilometers longer than the famed Paris-Roubaix.

Beginning in Bumthang in central Bhutan, the race crosses four high mountain passes with elevations from 1,200 to 3,340 meters before concluding in the country’s capital city of Thimphu. It has been calculated that over the course of the race, riders gain a punishing total of 3,790 meters (12,434 feet) and lose 3,950 meters (12,959 feet) in just one day.

The race was conceived by His Royal Highness, Prince Jigyel U. Wangchuck, President of the Bhutan Olympic Committee, who himself is a cycling enthusiast. His Royal Highness takes part in every race and has previously completed the course in record time.

With growing renown as one of the most challenging mountain bike races, the Tour of the Dragon also has a reputation as one of the most visually stunning. A tiny kingdom sandwiched between India and China and hidden in the folds of the eastern Himalayas, Bhutan is already a popular destination for trekking and environmental enthusiasts. With 72% of the country under forest cover it offers stretches of virgin forests and untouched mountain ecosystems, and the race provides a unique viewing point from which to appreciate the country’s pristine natural surroundings.

For those looking to participate, many of the top hotels in Bhutan offer ten-night packages to those taking part in the race, which is sure to become a huge event on the mountain bike calendar.

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