The 8th Tour of the Dragon (TOD), Pre-Race Thoughts

This years 160 mile mountain bike event across the country of Bhutan has 32 riders from multiple countries toeing the start line, including myself and one other woman. This number is down from past years registration numbers, which have averaged around 50. This is due in part to the conditions on the course this year—a lot of local riders have been scared away due to the possible odds not finishing.

Bhutan is in the process of widening their main road that runs through the country. Right now about 70% of this road, that we’ll be riding on, is torn up and under construction.
During monsoon season, which means daily rain, that equates to; land slides, mud bogs, and hard pack dirt roads which turn to slippery mud when wet. The road is cut through the mountains, deep valleys and high mountain passes, up to 10-11K feet. Cutting roads through this type of terrain means much of the road is cliffed out on one side with upwards of several thousands of feet drop from one edge of the narrow passages (and no railings!). Many of these narrow passages are cut through mud slides and are slick with deep mud. All that said, conditions this year make passage within the cut off times for many of the riders, difficult to improbable. When I witnessed the conditions as we drove across to the start line, my heart sank as we crawled through the mud for many hours in our 4-wheel drive vehicle.

I completed this event in 2015 with a very slow time, that I was quite pleased with—my main goal was to finish. Though my fitness level is very similar to 2015, this year the conditions are much more difficult and at times treacherous particularly on our first long descent, which will be done in the dark. Given my experience with events and conditions of this type, my one year experience with the race, as well as no option to train on mud for quite some time, I am mildly hopeful that I will complete the event this year. That is NOT a pessimistic opinion! I am not a pessimist. I am a realist/optimist in everything I do. I also know my skill level and current fitness, placed at high altitude and the combo looks a bit grim.

I am quite committed to ride through for as long as I can keep going and will push through cut off times, taking care of myself, as long as I’m able to do so. I’m just not willing to risk my safety on the super sketchy mud bogged down hill sections. This calculated condition I’m placing on my race, will slow my pace considerably. I’d rather come back to ride another day, than end up at the bottom of a ravine—I have too much more work, ideas, initiatives and love to share with Bhutan! (which is part of the reason for this trip). All that said, I look forward to an epic adventure in this amazing country and to the work I’ll be doing in my remaining time here. Back at you on the other side. Tashi Delek from Bhutan!

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