Omar Di Felice is no stranger to epic ultra-cycling expeditions. The 41-year-old, an ex-professional road cyclist, made the switch to expedition riding early in his career and hasn't looked back. He has ridden through Alaska, Canada, and the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. In 2014 he became the first cyclist to ride to the North Cape in Norway, close to the northern edge of Europe.
Since he was young, Di Felice harbored dreams about Antarctica after viewing films about Italian polar explorers like Reinhold Messner, the first person to cross the frozen continent on foot.
But his journey isn't only about achieving his childhood dreams; it also has a more significant message. His 'Bike to 1.5C' mission is an initiative that links his Antarctica adventure to a program designed to spread knowledge about climate change and the bicycle is the ideal means of bringing attention to climate change and lowering our carbon footprint.
Di Felice cycled from Milan to Glasgow last year to attend Cop26. His mission is to show the world that change can still be made and with less than a month before Cop27 in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt, Omar's decision to ride now is symbolic. By using the power of the bike to spread awareness about Antarctica and the reasons why it is so fragile.
Starting at Hercules Inlet in western Antarctica on the 19th of November, an approximate date determined by when his flight can depart Punta Arenas in southern Chile.
On arrival Omar will start cycling over the ice toward the south pole. If everything goes according to plan, he will ride around 2,000 kilometers in 60 days, passing the pole and arriving at Leverett Glacier in the middle of January to complete the first coast-to-coast bicycle journey.
The advent of fat bikes, wide-tire bikes that can travel through snowy terrain, has made cycling in Antarctica possible. With only two riders having successfully ridden the entire distance from Hercules Inlet to the south pole (about 1,250km) and nobody has ever continued riding across the continent from coast to coast until now.
Omar will ride his “Antarctica Unlimited” adventure on a steel fat bike, a specially modified Wilier Triestina. Also uniquely painted in Climate Stripes. It's unlikely that he will be riding the entire route, even with a special bike, bringing a whole new meaning to hike-a-bike as he navigates through occasionally uncharted territory, deep snow and ice.
He will also be hauling a sledge with his tent, provisions, and lots of warm gear while he walks or rides (temperatures could fall as low as minus 38C). He is traveling alone, but if required, he may refuel at the south pole (the expedition is not formally considered unsupported by the Polar Expeditions Classification Scheme because his route partly follows a constructed ice road). Di Felice expects a daily intake of around 4,500 calories.
Whether or not Di Felice makes history in the coming months, he will continue to spread his message of climate action through daring rides. “We can change the world if we use the bike every day, to go to work, to go to school, even to have some extreme journeys. My will is to show people that with the bike we can do everything – we can even go to Antarctica.”