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Welsh woman first ever to cycle to the South Pole

Alia Parker's picture
Maria Leijerstam first ever to cycle to the South Pole. Cycle Traveller

Welsh woman Maria Leijerstam has become the first person to successfully cycle to the South Pole, completing the gruelling ride in just 10 days using a custom-built trike.

Leijerstam, who reached her destination on December 27, was one of four people vying for the title of the first to cycle to the South Pole from the edge of the continent. She was a surprise contender for the title, announcing her ride just weeks before starting, despite two years' of secret preparations.

Starting ahead of her were American Daniel Burton and Spaniard Juan Menendez Granados, who continue their separate journeys towards the pole. Australian adventurer Kate Leeming was forced to delay her plans until next year due to funding shortages.

Leijerstam completed the 800km-plus ride from the edge of the continent in just 10 days and in doing so, set a second world record – the fastest self-supported solo journey to the South Pole.

“Her success was down to meticulous planning, super fitness both physically and mentally and pure determination,” said her mother Adrianne Leijerstam.

Leijerstam completed the journey using a fat-tyre three-wheeled recumbent bicycle custom built by PolarCycle. With weight distributed over three wheels and a low lying position in windy conditions, Leijerstam had an advantage over other cyclists attempting the ride, with three others all using two-wheeled fat tyre bicycles.

As a result, while Leijerstam now officially holds the title of the first to cycle to the pole, other contenders will also set records of their own.

For instance, Menendez Granados, who looks set to arrive any day now, is riding a two-wheeled bike while also using skis in areas where the snow is thick. Daniel Burton, who left first and remains some distance from the pole, is riding self-supported with food drops on two wheels only. Both men are riding a shorter route, although one that slowly climbs upwards towards the pole.

Leijerstam's route involved a very steep climb over the first 300km, followed by a flat plateau with a slow grade down to the pole. It's the same route Aussie Kate Leeming aims to ride on her fat bike next year. She will be riding supported with a film crew to document the journey and conditions at the pole.

With the title of the first to cycle to the pole toppled, it is possible that Leeming – provided she can raise the funding – will push for a different record, such as the first to cycle across the continent via the South Pole.

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