OMAR DI FELICE: Ultracycling in ICELAND
Omar Di Felice is an italian ultracycler.
“Ultracycling” is an extreme sport which includes races over 300 km, 12-24-48h races, and marathon over 1000 km. All that go beyond the usual cycling “traditional” is defined ultracycling.
In this interview, Omar explains how this “extreme” experience could be faced, what it means for him and a lot of curious and technical details for newbie and professionals. We are completely delighted by a man that is going to face his limits, with his love for the bicycle and a real passion for the icelandic landscape and culture.
This is the people that’s gonna change the world, one “pedaling” at the time.
First of all: most of the people usually don’t understand why someone’s got to face an “extreme” ultimate challenge like the one you are going to try in Iceland: an ultracycling solo marathon in one of the most difficult landscapes on earth. Why you decided to “push the limit” so far, what’s the main reason why an athlete decides to go out from its comfort zone and face such an experience?
This isn’t competition, a marathon or a bicycle ride. This is an “EXPERIENCE”. In my career I’ve done many competition but after all I’ve decided to start a new life doing something special. Iceland is one of the most beautiful and various landscape in the world, and I’ve felt in love with it. So I will try to discover it by bike, in only 3 or 4 stages (depends on weather and road conditions)
The Alps, The “Camino de Santiago”, a “TorTour” in Switzerland… And now Iceland: why you chose this particular place? What do you know about Iceland and what are your likes/dislikes?
I discovered Iceland in 2007. After my first trip I came back twice. I love how the landscape changes in few kilometers: volcanoes, geysir, black sand beaches, mountain, desert and so on… I like how Icelanders respect landscape and nature. There’s something special and magic in the air, and they know it…
How big is the ultracycling international movement? Do you feel like you are part of a particular “élite” of people that just won’t surrender to fatigue? What are the feelings of an ultracycler whilst facing these experiences?
Ultracycling is a particular kind of cycling: most cyclist all over the world are trying to do something unusual and “extreme”, doing Ultracycling Marathons. Especially in Switzerland, Austria, Germany and in the U.S.A a lot of people is Ultracycling. I’m trying to overtake my physical limit using mental training and I hope I’ll be one of the most important ultracycler not only in Italy, but in the entire world.
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. The fall and the rise of an athlete: is it a synonym of life? How can you find energies and strength to hold on to difficulties, falls, hunger, lack of sleep and the road that seems to be always longer and longer? What’s the feeling when you finally arrive and complete your projects?
Yes! The real competition is against our limits. During an Ultracycling Marathon or Experience, after many hours without sleeping, eating, resting, it’s easy to have a physical collapse. In those moments you gotta focus your mind on all privations and training you’ve done to realize your dream. If you do that you can find energies to complete your adventure. In the Swiss’ TorTour or the Race Across the Alps, for example, after more then one day without resting or sleeping, during the last kilometers I thought about all the time I’ve spent training myself to complete those rides in a top-ten position.
What’s on the mind of an ultracycler when he’s cycling? What is the difference between trainings and marathon? Do you have the chance to enjoy the landscape or is it just a run against yourself?
Both: during one or more days on a bike, you’ve got the time to think about yourself, to observe landscapes and nature. You cannot plan that kind of adventure if you don’t like nature.
What is the support and the attention given to this kind of activity by friends, media, sponsors and bikers?
My Ultracycling Career started as a “game” but after my first good results it became a real job. I’ve got a lot of fans and friends that are following me and in particular moments I find the strength to overtake my limits. Sponsors are important too, because they help me by financing my adventures, marathons, and so on.
Can anyone become an ultracycler? What are the must-have characteristics of an extreme sportsman? What are the consequences of a solo marathon on your mind and physical shape?
Being an athlete is not enough to become an Ultracycler: you’ve got to find and improve your mental limit to start something really “Extreme”. Everyone capable to find it, could start train to become a real ultra-athlete.
Talking about technical equipment, you cycle on Fondriest bicycles and, with the help of Reykjavik Boulevard and Tiny Iceland, are trying to find new sponsors for this historical activity: what kind of help you need and – for the expert bikers – how are you going to perform on that challenge?
I’m going to ride for more days with the crew that will supporti me if I’ll have troubles. Every kind of help in this sense is accepted: we need a support car (like 4×4), things like food, beverages, technical equipment (clothes, bike tires, etc..), place where we can rest…
People might have told you several times: “You are mad!” knowing what you do. Where’s the border between madness and passion, what is a real limit that a human being shouldn’t cross?
In my opinion we’ve to improve and overtake our limit in a conscientious way: I train myself to complete every marathon or experience in the best possible condition without suffering pain or doing physical damage. Only thinking about an extreme experience requires a big passion and a little bit of madness. To realize it, it’s such an amazing thing.
You are going to be on TV, magazines and newspapers, you have people close to you supporting your Ultracycling experience. But when you will be alone, stressing your body and your mind, what will give you strength? Music, art, memories, what will be your travel companion?
Music is my first travel companion. In several moments I need something relaxing, in other moments I need a kind of music giving me strength. Usually in my playlist you can find Sigur Ros, Wilco, Radiohead, Coldplay, Nirvana, music from soundtracks, and so on…
Omar Di Felice started his career in 1995 and he has been competing in many races for example UCI Road World Champion in 2006 (Salzburg). He is a professional cycling rider and started a new ultracycler career in 2011 obtaining a good 4th place at the Tour of Mont Blanc (330 km – 8000 m. altitude). In 2012 he planned the Race Across the Alps (5th place overall) and TorTour de Suisse (in Switzerland) – 1015 km NO STOP “SOLO” category (7th place overall).
Ultracycling is an extreme sport which includes races over 300 km, 12-24-48h races, and marathon over 1000 km. All that go beyond the usual cycling “traditional” is defined ultracycling. In Europe, the most important ultracycling marathon are the “Race Across the Alps”, Race Around Slovenia, Race Around Austria and the TorTour de Suisse. The “Queen” of ultracycling is the RAAM (Race Across America) which Omar will compete in 2014. An exhausting test, nearly 5000 km which winds off along the route of the “coast to coast”.