In Flanders, cycling is sacred. For every road, there is a bike route running right alongside it. So, what better tribute to this region's culture of cycling than the Tour of Flanders?
The Gobi Desert is a childhood dream for people who devoured the books of Jules Verne and old encyclopaedias with images of nomadic desert peoples. The dream then becomes a desire to be the first to discover places that no one else has ever seen or, since this is no longer possible today, to at least experience sensations no one else ever has.
That’s why Omar Di Felice combined Marco Polo’s Asian ambitions with Roald Amundsen’s Arctic and Antarctic passion, adding his own Jena UNICO gravel bike.
His expedition has become the “First Gobi Desert Winter Crossing (by bicycle)”.
The exploit was very carefully planned in terms of times and means, and by its very nature proved to be “even more extreme” because of the unpredictable weather conditions – February temperatures range from -20 to -40°C accompanied by sandstorms – and the actual existence of usable tracks.
Add the COVID-19 pandemic to the mix, which in addition to the “natural” challenges, led to a long break as a precaution in Dalanzadgad, after 1.000 km, just before entering the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park where the rocky aridity of the Mongolian desert joins the sand dunes.
Then the adventure began once more. Despite a slowdown, Omar managed to reach his goal; completing the planned route (Ulaanbaatar, Sainshand, Dalanzadgad, Bayantsagaan, Altai) before winter’s end.
So, the First Winter Crossing of the Gobi Desert on a gravel bike was completed, with its supply of unimaginable temperatures, unusual sandstorms and pandemic challenges, but also with images, sensations and encounters that Omar knows he will never forget.
However, it didn’t end there. Since he was unable to return immediately to Italy due to the suspension of international flights, Omar decided to continue his bicycle journey to Ulaanbaatar, crossing the Zavkhan River, riding along the Targavatai Mountains, heading north almost to Lake Khövsgöl, then east to the capital. By the end of the trip, he had cycled an impressive 2 270 km.
If we look at those 2 270 km on a map, they extend south almost to the border with China, very close to the route presented in The Travels of Marco Polo, and north almost to Russia and Irkutsk along Michael Strogoff and Jules Verne’s routes.
Real places that merge with stories and myths.
You can check the complete data of the trip following Omar Di Felice on Strava.
THE BIKE OF THIS ARTICLE
Jena Tundra: Free to choose
Jena is a new carbon gravel bike, designed to give you more freedom of choice when you go out for a ride. Jena was designed to satisfy any of your needs, whether it is performance on dirt roads and single track, or adventure, exploration, and bikepacking.
Jena is a light, reactive, and easy-to-handle bike with racing-comfort geometries, and able to adapt to the multiple uses required of a gravel bike.