On Monday 8 March, at 11:22 a.m. CET, Omar Di Felice knelt in front of a red sign painted on the rock: Everest Base Camp 5364.
At that moment he became the first cyclist ever to have reached the base camp on the Nepalese side of Everest by mountain bike in winter after crossing the entire Himalayan region. Completely alone, without a support team. His extreme adventure began on 15 February from Kathmandu and ended after 1294 kilometres (with 33,630 metres in height gain) on the road.
And "road" is an understatement. Omar tackled mule tracks and rocky paths, carrying his bike on his back and walking long stretches while his cycling shoes sank into the mud. A cycle-mountaineer struggling with the most vertiginous passes on the planet, crazy temperatures and the slaps of the wind. Just him, his rucksack and his bike. Becoming one with the immense nature all around.
Was it your most difficult adventure?
"It was certainly the most complete. I didn't just cycle, I also had to walk with my bike on my back and tackle treacherous paths made impassable by landslides. And at 5300 metres, everything is more complicated: it feels like moving in slow motion. But the difficulties only increase the final satisfaction”.
The most technically difficult passages?
"On Thorung La, the highest pass in the world (5416 m), there were moments when I was afraid. The trails had not been beaten for about a year: the pandemic had kept hikers away. The trail to Everest Base Camp was also problematic, with slippery sections in the forest”.
But then you reached your goal.
"I chose to end my adventure on Everest Base Camp because of the great symbolic value, but in the previous 20 days I had crossed the entire Himalayan region in winter. Usually you only do the last stretch from Lukla to Everest”.
You passed from the Annapurna massif to Everest: what does it feel like to be in the shadow of the legendary eight-thousanders?
"Climbing Everest is like entering the Coliseum: you breathe history.It is an iconic place, where the great adventures of mountaineering have taken place. In front of the Khumbu Icefall, the huge wall of ice on the side of Mount Everest, I was breathless”.
You have always carried all your equipment with you, without a support team.How did you organise your overnight stops?
"I stopped in villages along the way and slept in guesthouses, houses inhabited by families with guest rooms upstairs. To keep warm they would light up old stoves, when they had them. There was no hot water for washing. They handed me basins of ice-cold water from the rivers. I gritted my teeth in despair and plunged in. It was one of the hardest aspects of my adventure”.
Travelling also means exploring, opening up to new cultures and discovering oneself richer from a human point of view.
"I will miss the people I met on my adventure. The smiling children who ran alongside me, the villages that cheered me on, the Sherpas with their yaks who saw me on my bike and said: 'You are stronger than us, you deserve our respect'. I met people who were very poor economically, but very rich in humanity”.
It was your first extreme adventure with UYN technical apparel.
"I went from -15° in the Mustang region, the driest and coldest in Asia, with terrifying wind gusts, to 35° in the valleys near Kathmandu. Then towards Everest I found the cold and snow again. In a single adventure I crossed all four seasons with the biggest temperature change I have ever faced. The UYN apparel guaranteed me total comfort at all times. I never found myself drenched in sweat or chilled, and the ventilation system between the layers perfectly regulated my body temperature, both during activity and when I was taking a break”.
What clothes did you wear?
"I adopted the technique of dressing in layers. First the underwear, then the jersey, then the jacket or sleeve. I had three jackets of different weights, the vest and a packable windproof jacket. Depending on the weather conditions, I would add or remove layers and combine the garments in different ways. I have to say that the thermoregulation was always perfect”.
What qualities have impressed you most about UYN products?
"The fit is an important added value. The absence of seams in the garments is noticeable, especially over long distances. The garment follows every movement without constriction, chafing or pressure points. Even when several layers are layered, movements always remain free and natural. It was my first extreme adventure with UYN and I could appreciate the extraordinary quality".
Ultra-cyclist Omar Di Felice is a UYN ambassador. The technical clothing used for the Himalayan expedition was produced by AREAS (Academy for Research and Engineering in Apparel and Sport), our modern research and development laboratory, in collaboration with the athlete himself. The long-sleeved jersey, jackets and winter trousers will be commercially available from next autumn. The short-sleeved jersey and shorts will be available in a few days in our online shop and in the best shops.
UYN products are made from natural materials (Merino wool for underwear, socks and accessories) or bio-based materials such as NATEX, the new generation fibre derived from castor beans. Thanks to NATEX, UYN jerseys and shorts are 25% lighter and dry 50% faster than equivalent garments made of traditional nylon. UYN's advanced technologies guarantee garments with a bodymapped temperature regulation system: effective insulation in strategic areas and breathability in the areas of the body subject to the most perspiration. Ideal for any condition. Even Everest.