This cyclist is about to ride 2,000km across Antarctica

A man, his sled, his tent and a fatbike.

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

the Beauty of Cycling
Jump To Comments

For 60 continuous days, Omar Di Felice will cycle between 30-40 km every day. Doesn’t sound like a lot, unless it’s on snow. Soon, Di Felice will set out on the first-ever bicycle crossing of Antarctica.

Next week he’ll fly to Chile before another short journey over to the Hercules Inlet in western Antarctica, passing the south pole – completing a 1,250 km ride that two people in history have accomplished – until he hopefully reaches to the Leverett Glacier in mid-January. This ride has to be undertaken with a fair amount of zip, as he has to get it done by the time his permission to be in Antarctica expires on January 20. If he’s successful, it will be the first full crossing of the continent by bike.

Di Felice will ride afatbikeequipped with the wide tyres that give it its name. Behind it, the Italian will drag a sled carrying a tent and supplies as he eats 4,500 calories a day to sustain his 8-10 hours of riding. He will be unsupported for the majority of the ride but can refuel at the south pole.

The initial sections of his journey will be the most arduous, taking place in terrain never previously traversed. Here, he will cover only 20-30 km a day before ramping up to 50-60 km each day when he makes it onto a compacted ice road between the pole and the McMurdo Station (which is sort of in the direction of Australasia…sort of).

“I hope that I am ready for the most extreme adventure of my life,” De Felice toldthe Guardian. “Everyone I speak with says I’m crazy, it’s impossible, the bike won’t go over because of the deep snow and the wind. It’s very hard for cycling – but I’ll just go and explore and find out for myself whether it’s possible or not.

“I know that it will be a really hard challenge,” the 41-year-old continued. “I’m not sure I will be able to do so – because it’s very hard. But I just want to try, it’s an attempt. It’s a hard attempt, but why not try?”

Di Felice has a background in professional road racing (he’s searchable on ProCyclingStats) before later becoming an ultracyclist. His achievements include being the first person in 2014 to ride to the northernmost tip of continental Europe, North Cape in Norway, during the winter season.

He is also a climate activist, having ridden to Scotland from Milan for 2021’s Cop26 (Cop27 is currently taking place in Egypt). “We have to tell the story of Antarctica and why Antarctica is so fragile,” Di Felice said of the threat to the continent posed by climate change.

Whether or not Di Felice makes it across by January 20, he says he could try another attempt in the future. Either way, new challenges are always around the corner. The world is a big place. “The most important thing is to think you can do it. I will be happy even if I don’t reach the other coast,” he said.

“Maybe I will come back to Antarctica and try again, maybe I will try another part of Antarctica, maybe I will go to the north pole. There are a lot of things to do.”