Cycling: Thimphu Mountain Biking Club (TMBC), the first bicycling club in Bhutan, organised its maiden event, the TMBC Climbing Challenge, yesterday in Thimphu.

Jigme Tenzin, the overall men’s winner, completed the six kilometre race in 35 minutes and 33 seconds. In the overall women’s category, Chimi Dema, completed the race in 46 minutes and seven seconds.

The race started from the Lungtenzampa school parking and ended at the end of the road in Tandin-Ney. According to a press release from TMBC, the average gradient of the cycling track is 8.5 percent with an elevation gain of 520 metres. But some sections of the road are as steep as 11-12 percent. “In comparison, the average gradients of highways in Bhutan are only 4-5 percent steep,” states the press release.

TMBC organised the race to generate interest in mountain biking among Bhutanese as a healthy and environmentally friendly activity and also to engage youth over the winter holidays.

This race was the first in a series of races and events the club has planned as part of its activities. It was also the first club level race organised in the country.

Riders competed in six different categories: youth (17 years and below, male and female), elite (18-40 years, male and female), and masters (41 years and above, male and female). A total of 36 riders took part in the daylong race.

In addition to prizes, the fastest climber across all age categories earned the title of King of the Mountain (KoM) for fastest male and Queen of the Mountain (QoM) for fastest female.

The title of KoM and QoM are commonly given to winners of mountain segments of cycling races worldwide.

TMBC was formally established on December 13 by a group of mountain biking enthusiasts to increase overall interest in bicycling in Bhutan and provide opportunities for riders, particularly the youth to be engaged in all aspects of mountain biking from riding, racing, community building and looking after the natural resources for mountain biking.

“The founding members of TMBC hope to encourage formation of other bicycling clubs around the country to increase the opportunities for Bhutanese to participate in local, national and international mountain biking events,” says the TMBC news release.

The club also plans to encourage and advocate pride and stewardship of the environment through sustainable mountain biking practices.

The club is planning more races under the TMBC Climbing Challenge Series and also cross-country and “Enduro” style mountain biking races next year. Other events like group rides, advocacy rides, clinics and lessons are also in the pipeline.

The first edition of the TMBC Climbing Challenge was supported by the Bhutan Trust Fund for Environmental Conservation, IMTRAT, and other businesses and individuals.

Staff  Reporter