‘Above all, the most important thing is to complete the race’

Face2face Feature

Pelden Wangchuk, 20, from Drujaygang, Dagana stormed to victory in the 10th Tour of the Dragon winning the title of the son of the dragon this year. Business Bhutan reporter Kinley Yonten caught up with him for a question and answer

session to find out the secrets to his tenacity and success.

Tell us about the 10th Tour of the Dragon?

I’m not sure where to start. I can’t even remember much of the race even though it was held on September 1 every year. I was in the zone like I had never been before. The crowds were amazing; I had never experienced an atmosphere like it. From when I crossed Dochula was just a whirl wind and people are cheering me when I reached at finish point, then into a crowd of people who wanted a picture with me. I was very privileged to be selected to race as it was my second time participating in this race, so some people could have seen me crying at the end of race. I was so lucky to have my mother, who cheered me when I reached at Thinleygang when I was tired and losing hope in this race. It was truly amazing hearing so many kind messages after the race, I just couldn’t believe they were all to me.

Did you think the yellow jersey could bring “Good Luck”?

It was my dream to win this trophy with this Yellow jersey and yes, on September 7 my dream became reality. When I was doing a faster practice on Thimphu express way, my bike felt amazing and so did my legs and just for one minute I imagined what if I win, but then I had my worst race last year, so I didn’t expect to win.

When and where did you start cycling [as a sport] and what inspired you?

I stated cycling in mid 2012 for exercise or to make myself physically fit. I was advised to pick up cycling to lose my body weight. I thought that riding would be a great chance to spend time and build my fitness. I soon fell in love with riding and joined dragon fury under 18 categories in 2016 and stood third. From that day, I was more into racing mode.

What came first, a love of riding your bike or a desire to race?

It was definitely the love of riding, I hated racing before. It has only been in the last couple of years I have fallen in love with racing. I think I used to put so much pressure on myself. It was always the fear of failure. Now with a training program and my own race experience, when I line up at the start line, I know how much work I have put in, and so getting nervous on the day won’t change anything.

What one thing would you change to improve youth bike racing?

I would be riding! I wasn’t riding a bike when I was a youth, so just starting earlier would be a great place for me to start. One change to improve youth bike racing would be its high time we start a cycling federation and send some of our talented youths abroad for training.

What top tips would you give that may inspire young racing cyclists?

It’s hard at first when you start but once the uphill bug bites you than you will be like: “Don’t lose hope, hard work really pays off.” I think it’s always important to get the right balance between life on and off the bike. Last year I stood 4th at this same race, looking back I could have changed some of my training to get the 1st place, but for me having fun which was my main target last year was so important and the result was a bonus this year.

What is your greatest strength and biggest weakness during racing?

This time, my greatest strength was when I saw my mom cheering for me above Thinleygang when I was tired and losing hope. And I would say my biggest strength is running. On the other hand, I have so many weaknesses when it comes to race-the scorching heat at Wangdue – Thinleygang affected my speed while climbing up.

How prepared were you for the race?

As a cyclist, there’s nothing like a long ride to bring a sense of accomplishment, for beginners and seasoned pros alike. Now if you’re relatively new to the race, or have yet to attempt anything longer distance, there’s no need to feel intimidated. Successful, long-distance cycling often comes down to strategy and planning, and not just fitness.

Compared to last year I trained more this year, I was daily cycling from Thimphu to Haa and to Chunzom. Climbing up on Chelela pass and down to Paro and back to Thimphu which is 205 km really helped me build up stamina.  Sometimes I go up to Pelela which is almost 240 km.”

This year’s race was far better compared to last year. As the road widening works were almost done and the road conditions were really good compared to previous years. Last year was my first time so I didn’t know much about how and where to put more effort but this year through last year’s experience I got many lessons on how to ride.

How will you defend your title next year?

Most important path to improve is to complete the race uphill as downhill can be done by most average people that they can ride well and doesn’t take much time. Most important is to complete this race uphill; it needs stamina and endurance.

Above all the most important thing is to complete the race. You have to be mentally prepared as HRH Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuk said: “Be strong in the mind you will need it.” For this title, I am looking forward to work even harder and train well to defend it.

What should we eat during a ride or before race?

If your ride is under 90 minutes, you can get away with sipping on some water or hydrate with energy tablets. For longer distance races, low-fat and high-carb snacks are best. You can buy energy bars at stores but you’ll also be just fine with a banana. When you’re out on a long bike ride, nutrition and hydration are keys for sustaining your effort. I aim to drink about one bottle per hour, depending on heat and exertion level.

What is the most important part of cycling?

When the speed increases, focusing on the road is the most important part of cycling and if we want to last long on a ride or race, we can’t go all out right from the starting gear. That includes pedaling in an efficient gear and it isn’t too hard and won’t fry your legs. Opt for a slightly easier gear with a higher cadence versus one that’s lower because the pedals are harder to turn over.

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