Cycling: In his maiden appearance in the world’s toughest one-day mountain bike race, Tour of the Dragon, Cory Wallace from Canada finished first, completing the race in 13 hours 2 minutes and 5 seconds.

Following the Canadian, two Nepalese riders, Rajkumar Shrestha and Buddhi Bhadur Tamang completed the race in 13 hours 39 minutes 59 seconds and 13 hours 57 minutes 34 seconds, respectively.

The race this year was relatively tougher because of the ongoing road widening process along the Trongsa-Thimphu highway and incessant rainfall.

Almost completely drenched in mud, 33-year-old Cory, sipping on a guava juice, exits the massage tent. The Canadian is totally drained out of energy. “One of the toughest times I experienced on a bike,” he said.

Cory arrived in the country three days prior to the race day. One of the elite riders in his country and specialised in tough mountain races, Cory Wallace has won several international mountain bike races including some of the most challenging races across the globe.

The 268km race across four mountain passes ranging from 1,200 to 3,340 metres above sea level, Tour of the Dragon, still remained unconquered for the Canadian. However, it was just a matter of time until Cory added another successful record to his resume.

“I’ve experienced many races in my career, from the extremes of weathers to different geographical areas but never had I experienced so much of mud during a race,” he said.

He added that at some point of the race, riders were knee-deep in mud walking and pushing their bikes. “I thought that if we had to do the same thing during the full race, it would be very difficult to complete the race.”

Riding his Kona Honzo 29er hard-tail bike, Cory started in a group of five for an hour or so from Bumthang. It was after some 20kms of descending from Yotongla that the Canadian took the lead. For the next nine hours till the finish line at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu, Cory rode alone in the race.

“There is no better way to see this beautiful country than on a bike,” he said. “The experience has gone beyond my expectations.”

Those who made the cut-off time of reaching Dochula, the final checkpoint of the race by 6am, were entitled for the prize money.   A total of 19 riders from 47 riders officially completed the race.

Although non of the Bhutanese could make it in the top three positions, the remaining 4th to 8th positions went to Bhutanese riders. Norbu finished the race in 14 hours 4 minutes 40 seconds followed by Karma after 11 minutes.

Tashi Namgay, Rinchen Norbu and Sherub Dorji completed the race in 14 hours 32 minutes, 15 hours 4 minutes 36 seconds and 15 hours 13 minutes and 35 seconds, respectively.

From 19 riders who completed the race, 11 were Bhutanese.

Younten Tshedup