Meeting Thomas Daddi of Puntala, Enduro World Series Round 1 Host
Thomas Daddi is the brave man taking on the hosting of the first ever Enduro World Series race at his Puntala resort...
Words and interview by James McKnight
Thomas Daddi is the brave man taking on the hosting of the first ever Enduro World Series race, which takes place on the 18-19 May in Punta Ala, Italy.
Familiar with staging enduro races, having already had three Superenduro events at his beachside resort (Puntala Resort), and having proven to be well organised, enthusiastic and meticulous, Tom was perhaps the obvious choice for the EWS team to choose for the all-important first round of the first ever World Series.
Tom pops up at Superenduro events all round Italy where he rides and races not only for fun but also as a way of gauging difficulty levels for his own events and in order to ensure the constant development and progression of them. There is a lot of speculation and anticipation building but we are confident that the first EWS race is going to be a complete success thanks in part Daddi's drive and motivation to host a perfect race.
We caught up with Tom last week while we were touring the Italian shores and spoke a little about the experience of setting up the course and the event in general.
Can you explain what Puntala Resort is?
Thomas Daddi: The resort has belonged to my family for a couple of generations, and I’ve started managing it recently – it’s been quite a challenge. I’ve explored some ways of making the area into a different kind of attraction from the usual ‘beach location from mid May to September, deserted the rest of the year’.
So out of those main months of the season, I thought, “what’s possible?" I tried sailing, had a couple of big things going, but while sailing does bring a lot of people for specific events, sailors don’t do too much in the way of visiting spots. So I decided to try with mountain biking.
Myself, I had a background in mountain biking growing up in Colorado – I spent a lot of summers there as my mother is American, so it was a return. I’d left mountain biking because it was all hardtails, which was a bit unpleasant… When I started again, I realised there were some massive technical improvements between the 90s and 2009, so I’ve really got into it, I’m riding a lot.
So you’ve worked to cater for mountain bikers in the resort. Are the trails around the resort locals’ trails or have you built them specifically?
The network of trails was all there already. The area is very rich in minerals and it’s all covered in forest. In the past, wood would be burnt and turned into charcoal on the spot to transport it out, so there was a network of existing trails from that. Moving through the trees, every hundred metres you’ll find a pitch that’s perfectly level, where in the past they would build a stack of wood and burn it very slowly to turn it to charcoal, pack it down and take it down the hill.
So all that’s required is to take a GPS and map all the pitches, then draw a line on Google Earth and look for the trail that joins them. Next, put tape on trees and chainsaw your way through… All the trails were walked out by mules, which means the earth is really packed down and close to the rock. The water has subsequently washed through them over the years and worn them down further still. It’s really fun riding on natural trails; our work is mainly related to making the riding safe, cutting down dangerous things close to the trails and so on.
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Video report from last year's Superenduro at Puntala Resort
Are they marked trails outside the race times?
That’s the next thing we’re working on right now, it requires careful management politically and a lot of votes come from enduro motorcycle riders – they love finding freshly open trails and tearing them apart, so that’s something we’ve got to be careful of. It’s forbidden to ride motos in the woods, but walkers and horse riders will also use the trails, so the political work is to make sure that there’s strong control over keeping motorbike riders out and making other dedicated horseback trails so we can ride the trails all year round. Hopefully the trails will have signs and from there bring it on.
So this will be the first round of the Enduro World Series this year. How did you come to be holding it?
There’s partly down to a relationship built up with the organisers. I don’t think Puntala Resort was being considered at the beginning - there was more of a central European market to consider, so something closer would have been ideal - but at the same time the organisers had to rely on an organisation that had experience and they had seen that I had been willing to throw resources into it and that my events had always been a success. We’ve seen the numbers for Superenduro races here grow from 100 to 200 in the first two years, and for the 2013 event it was sold out in the first 48 hours – 450 people, and we’re trying to open that up to 500.
You must feel pretty proud that you’ve got the very first Enduro World Series event?
Yeah, personally I’m very proud of it. Having been awarded this event means being considered up to standard with international events as well.
So can you give us a description of Puntala Resort then?
Yeah, we’re talking about a resort and an area, a horseshoe of hills inland for about 30km. The hills are almost 600m at some points, and the valley ends up in a beautiful long sandy beach. The resort is at the north side of this in the pine woods – it’s pretty big, enough for 3,000 with restaurants, supermarkets, entertainment and facilities…it’s a family-friendly resort. At the same time it’s an infrastructure that’s left under-used in the shoulders of the seasons – so organising a big event at this time of year comes quite easily. It has a very particular area, which is an open space in the pine woods where we will host the event, catering to teams, journalists, expo industry members… Yeah. The resort is on the beach, so sleeping there you can hear the sea. I sleep very well there! And from there you can walk to the first singletrack.
When the Enduro World Series event takes place, the season will have barely started. It’s a month into the season, so there’s four weeks beforehand for riders to come and test out the trails while enjoying the seaside.
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So on setting the event up… What’s it taken to set the course and stages up? A lot of planning presumably?
I’m backed up by some very passionate riders and co-workers, which makes things much easier, and being into the fourth year of the game, organisation is almost automatic. The only thing at this time is pinning the right type of layout for the expo area, the team area, getting the press room up to standard…that’s the greatest challenge. As for the event itself, the hardest thing is transfer times - not getting them too easy like the first year I held a Superenduro race or too harsh like the second. I’ve asked the pro riders about and got the feedback to finalise the numbers, then given them to the Enduro World Series. The riders will be on different stages at different times [as there are so many racing] – when the first rider hits the mid-race time check after stage two, the last rider has to have left the start gate. And when the first rider finishes, the last rider has to have come through the time check. So that’s tricky.
What kind of stages can we expect? Physical, rocky, pedally, sandy, hard?
I’ll leave that to all those riders who will be able to ride in the month beforehand – we’re leaving four weeks to ride the trails before the race (the stages were announced this week). So I’d say come ride them for yourself. They’ll be mapped with indications out on the trails too – we won’t tape the stages, but it’s easy to follow the trail down.
Are you finding it a lot of pressure and stress, or enjoying it?
I’m really glad I’ve built up a solid team at Puntala and I’m really grateful for the help I’ve been able to rely on from this team. Thanks to them I can enjoy the pressure of running this event, it’s just like being at the start of a race, I enjoy that feeling of pressure too. I used to row for the Italian national team, when at the start of those races you’re under a lot of pressure, something that I really quite enjoy. So I enjoy equally the pressure of running a business and especially organising this event.
How many races have you had there previously? Three?
Yeah, three. All Superenduro Pro series, and I rode the second one to see what the vibe was like. I learnt from that and I feel like this year will be the best yet.
You really get involved yourself then? You go to other events too don’t you?
Yeah, it’s definitely necessary and what I find especially useful from riding other races is judging the transfer time. I use my own capabilities to calculate the transfer times, and I must say that’s not always the right way of doing it, so I needed to do other races and see what time I had left over.