Omar Di Felice’s record-breaking mission in the world’s most remote region
Beyond adventure, a challenge to the limits of human capabilities. Omar Di Felice raises the bar again. After crossing the Himalayan region all the way to Everest Base Camp (March 2021), after completing Arctic World tour following the three arctic border lines (April 2022), our ultra-cyclist now challenges the most remote and inhospitable place on Earth. Antarctica.
The longest bicycle crossing
Inspired by the legendary exploits of Ernest Shackleton, Omar will attempt to cross Antarctica by bicycle without any support team, sleeping in a tent and carrying all the necessary for survival. The ‘Antarctica Unlimited’ mission will start between 19 and 20 November from the Hercules Inlet base in Antarctica. In the first leg of his journey, Omar will cycle 1200 km to the South Pole and then head to the Leverett Glacier for another 600 km to complete the coast-to-coast. If conditions permit, Omar will eventually attempt to reverse it back to the pole and reach a total of 2400 km. The longest crossing of Antarctica ever made by bicycle, without any support team.
During his adventure, the average temperature is expected to be -30°, with strong katabatic winds blowing at up to 100 km/h. The adventure will have to end by 20 January 2023, the date on which the permits to stay in Antarctica will expire.
The secrets of the UYN Antarctica suit
Omar’s project challenged the UYN engineers to develop a type of clothing that had never been made before, capable of maintaining body heat at exceptionally low temperatures while allowing the athlete to move freely on the bike. Thus the ‘Antarctic’ suit was born.
The starting point was the expedition suit used by mountaineers when climbing to an altitude of 8000 metres. To achieve maximum thermal power, the jacket and trousers are padded with Airnest, an eco-sustainable high-performance material derived from the recycling of textile waste, characterised by a micro-sphere structure that effectively traps air, creating a powerful insulating layer. Unlike mountaineers, however, Omar will have to make different movements, which is why UYN’s engineers had to devise new construction solutions.
The jacket is made at the lower body and arms with three-layer fabric that is abrasion-resistant and provides high thermal insulation. In the movement zones, an ultra-elastic fabric that adapts to the athlete’s body was used instead. The neck area, in particular, has been completely redesigned according to innovative ergonomic principles, analysing Omar’s position on the bike. The front covers the mouth and nose, leaving only the goggle area uncovered. The breathable fabric makes it possible to warm up with the heat of the breath but disperses moisture at the same time, to prevent it from crystallising and freezing the mouth area. The zippered removable hood is tailored to accommodate the helmet and allow Omar to ride in complete safety.
The jacket pockets feature a lining with Buffercone technology, a fabric structure developed by UYN that traps warm air in micro-cones, increasing thermal efficiency. The same technology has also been introduced into the lining of the trousers, in the kidney and lumbar areas, to provide greater protection from the cold.
The trousers themselves, with removable elastic braces, represent the pinnacle of textile technology. The fit has been designed down to the millimetre to ensure smooth pedalling without the bottom leg interfering with the chain or rubbing against the bike frame. The end of the trousers has been complemented with a snow gaiter and reinforced with snow guards derived from ski wear to prevent rips during the adventure. Finally, the trousers feature a revolutionary graduated padding, with a greater weight in the lower abdomen area to protect from the cold and gradually less in the legs for complete freedom of movement. A double side zip will allow Omar to reduce the size of the trousers to suit the athlete’s expected weight reduction.
The ‘Antarctica’ suit was born between our AREAS research academy and the icy roads of the Arctic region and Iceland, where Omar tested the equipment under extreme conditions. The first test was conducted between February and March during Omar’s Arctic world tour, the second in September a few months before the official departure. In all, the development of the suit took over a year, in the awareness that the slightest error, in the padding weight, in the tension of an elastic band, can be decisive.
A science project to tackle the climate crisis
“Antarctica Unlimited” is not only an extreme sports adventure but also a scientific expedition. Omar’s new challenge is part of the “Bike to 1.5°C” project, designed by the Italian ultra-cyclist to raise awareness of issues related to the climate crisis. Antarctica is the most fragile and delicate place in the world, in collaboration with Italian Climate Network and ESA, the European Space Agency, Omar will study and report on the effects of climate change.