Unlike what many believe, Antarctica is not the South Pole. What we usually call the South Pole is but a minuscule point that lies more or less at the centre of an immense continent that contains it. This vast expanse is Antarctica: the fifth largest continent on the planet. Though larger - and more than just slightly - than Europe, it is not a continent like the others. Most of the Antarctic continent is permanently covered in ice and snow, leaving less than 1 percent of land exposed. It’s an endless white landscape that reaches, on average, an elevation of 1600 metres above sea level.
And so, Omar Di Felice, after arriving at the point closest to South America - the Base General Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme - and riding a short distance on a plain of mostly even ice, must start to climb to make up for the elevation gain. An endeavour that is difficult to imagine. He will be pedalling at temperatures that will vary between -20°C near the coast and -40° when he climbs and ventures onto the Polar Plateau towards the South Pole, while pulling, from the very first moment, the sled carrying all that is required to survive the sixty-five days expected for the crossing.
“I would first of all like to reach the geographical South Pole and, once there, I'll see if I should continue on to the Indian Ocean, opposite Australia. This adventure is quite difficult to predict, given that the weather conditions will be the ultimate judge of the success of this challenge. The wind and cold down there are unforgiving. When there is no latitude or longitude, you are at the complete mercy of the elements. It's a place where a human is tiny, almost non-existent, compared to the power of nature”.
Still today, almost 200 years after its discovery and 120 years from the Nimrod Expedition led by Ernest Shackleton, everything concerning the continent of ice is completely in the grip of the elements, which is of course what has always attracted those who love extreme adventures.
And it is precisely one of these extreme adventures that Omar Di Felice will undertake by riding on the icy plateau with a sled full of survival essentials in tow. In just days, from above, he will appear as a tiny speck that moves slowly along an immense white continent. A tiny speck in pursuit of the great Antarctic dream, which will go hand in hand with yet another important mission.
“It is definitely an adventure I've dreamed of for a very long time, but it’s not just a matter of riding in an extreme place. I hope my attempt to make the crossing will resound loud and clear and raise awareness in public opinion concerning the environment and what is happening. It is precisely in Antarctica, with the melting of the ice caps, that it's easier to see the effects of climate change. Antarctica Unlimited wants to shed even more light on an issue that must be urgently tackled”.
This intent is highlighted by the Warming Stripes, which make up the paint work of the special fat bike designed and built purposely by Wilier Triestina to accompany Omar Di Felice in the most challenging adventure of his career.
“I'm thrilled that Ed Hawkins gave his approval to use his stripes to decorate the bike I'll be using for Antarctica Unlimited. Science and ultra-cycling come together for this great awareness operation aimed at one of today's most critical issues: the survival of the planet”.
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