Tour of the Dragon—the toughest mountain biking race you’ve never heard of
by Joel Einhorn, Founder of HANAH
Bhutan is majestic country nestled in the heart of the Himalayas. It’s a land of magical herbs, sacred mountains and lost villages. It’s been three months since my last visit and I’m excited to be headed back.
In my last blog, I mentioned that the kingdom of Bhutan opted not to use GDP (Gross National Product) as its measure of success but instead created a new index, Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH is used as a gauge for prosperity, the overall happiness of its people and to influence government policy. One of the four pillars used to measure GNH is environmental conservation. With over half the country being protected as national parks, nature reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, it comes as no surprise that Bhutan is the only country in the world that is actually carbon negative!
Thanks to their exemplary efforts, Bhutan has the most striking natural beauty of anywhere I have ever seen. But that is not the reason I’m returning.
The ride of a lifetime
I’ve been an athlete and sports fan my entire life. Whether it’s hockey, cycling, snowboarding, surfing or golf, I connect with the spirit of competition. The national sport of Bhutan is archery, but the Royal Family also has a deep love of mountain biking. So much so that His Royal Highness Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck created the Tour of the Dragon mountain bike race, considered one of the most challenging one-day events in the world.
During my first trip to Bhutan, I accepted a generous offer to participate in this year’s race that is to be held on the first Saturday of September as the monsoons fade. The insanely difficult ultra-marathon course covers 268 kilometers (157 miles) of stunning Himalayan landscapes and crosses four mountain passes at an average elevation of over 3,000 meters (11,000 feet).
Most importantly, it is a vehicle for Bhutan to encourage its own citizens to get outside and ride bikes, compete in sports and share some of Bhutan’s amazing countryside with visitors like myself.
On Saturday, September 2, at 2:00 a.m., I’ll start pedaling. I’m not sure if I will cross the finish line by nightfall, but I am certain that this experience will have a profound and lasting impact on me. I have already been captivated by this land of herbal medicine and know that we can all learn something from the people and ancient wisdom of Bhutan. I hope to bring you more soon.
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