Cycling: Three-time winner of the Tour of the Dragon mountain bike race, Sonam, will not compete in the seventh edition of the race that began today from Bumthang.

The 33-year-old cyclist could not take part in race after suffering a shoulder injury during his second international bike race, Bristol BikeFest in the United Kingdom last June.

The 12-hour solo mountain bike race took an early toll on the cyclist. After an hour Sonam had a collision with some other riders landing heavily on his shoulder. However, with all the difficulties Sonam managed to complete the 197km race within 12 hours and finished in the fourth place.

Sonam said that he wanted to train for the upcoming tournaments and he went out for a practice session but during his try-outs, he suffered another injury on the same shoulder.

“The physicians said that I had torn my muscles in the already injured shoulder and asked me to refrain from cycling for at least a year if I want to continue with my passion,” said Sonam.

However, Sonam will still be a part of the competition this year. The cyclist is accompanying HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck during the race providing his expertise and suggestion to the new riders competing this year.

A total of 47 riders are taking part in the seventh edition of race, the largest number so far for the competition. The competition this year saw 25 new entries including 20 international riders from America, Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, India and the United Kingdom.

Considered to be the toughest one-day mountain bike race in the world, Tour of the Dragon covers 268km across four mountain passes ranging from 1,200 to 3,340 metres.

The race starts in Bumthang, located some 2,610m from where the riders follow the Bumthang chhu for a couple of kilometres and then climb 6km through a blue pine forest to Kiki La at 2,870m.

Riders reach Yotongla located at 3,430m, the highest point of the race which is then followed by 29km of going downhill till Trongsa. From Trongsa the road descends gently for 7km to the Bjee bridge at 1,900m.

Officials from the Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) said that due to the ongoing road widening process and the monsoon, road conditions have become unpredictable. With the weather forecast suggesting further downpour in this region, all precautionary measures are in place for the safety of the riders wherever necessary, said officials.

Some 1,000 volunteers including health workers, officials from the Department of Roads, RSTA, DeSuung, and students are deployed to help the riders if necessary.

BOC officials said that given the poor road conditions, the race is expected to be completed within 13 to 14 hours. Last year Sonam completed the race in 11 hours, 55 minutes and 52 seconds.

The race began at 2am this morning from Bumthang and will end at the Clock Tower Square in Thimphu.

Younten Tshedup