When the 75kms cross-country cycling race kicked off from the Gelephu Higher Secondary School ground on January 30, people were surprised to see a 9-year-old boy participating in the race.

While many thought the boy would give up after 5 to 6kms, others were concerned that he might get injured.

However, the class III student of Gelephu Lower Secondary School, Sherab Yoezer, surprised everyone by completing the race in about six hours.

As the youngest participant among the 63, who took part in the race, he was the last person to complete the race.

Sleeping on the floor at home in Gelephu town, Sherab was asking his parents to massage his legs that evening. He complained of calf pains.

He said it was a difficult task, especially the trails through marshy areas, uphill climb and river. “A man helped me carry my bike every time we came across such trails.”

Sherab said he never thought he would complete the race but didn’t want to give up either. “The man who followed and helped me asked several times if he should call my father or an ambulance but I kept racing.”

He said he would not have participated if he knew how the trail would be. His longest ride while practising was until Juprey, about 5kms away from town.

Sherab’s father, Nedup, who encouraged the boy to participate, said he thought he would give up halfway. “He was interested and I encouraged him so that he could take interest in future.”

His mother, Sonam, said it’s a proud moment for the family, as she never expected him to complete the race. “It might be a small thing for others but I feel it is a lifetime achievement for us.”

Meanwhile, the eldest participant is Duba, 60, from Phangkhar in Zhemgang who completed the race.

The former soldier said he participated to encourage other elderly residents to take interest in biking, as it has many health benefits.

He said he picked up biking after people advised him it would help cure his severe knee and back pain. “It did. It even helped my gastritis.”

Duba completed the race in five hours and 10 minutes this year in 44th position. “I improved by 10 positions this year and I hope to do better next year.”

The organisers awarded Nu 5,000 each to the oldest and the  youngest participants.

Tashi Dema | Gelephu