Former champ Laliscia: ‘AlUla has potential to become endurance capital of the Middle East’
ALULA: Former Endurance World Champion Gianluca Laliscia believes that AlUla has the potential to become one of the leading destinations for his sport, and wants to use this month’s 2022 Fursan Cup to take another important step on that journey.
“As soon as I set foot in AlUla, I could see the huge potential,” said Laliscia, who won the FEI Endurance World Championship in 2005, and since retiring from competition. has gone on to found and successfully run a number of businesses within the endurance world, including his current position as CEO and chairman of sistemaeventi.it, and founder of Italia Endurance Stables & Academy.
As the new general sports director for The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022, he is uniquely positioned to give an expert view on AlUla.
“As a place it has all the ingredients that you would want for a world class endurance ride — natural terrain, stunning landscape, a deep history of, and respect for, horses, as well as a collective and heartfelt ambition to grow the sport, both at an elite level but also as a source of equestrian tourism,” he said.
“Endurance is a wonderful sport. It’s my sport. It is unique amongst equestrian sports in that it involves a strong connection between three key elements: The rider, the horse and nature. For me, endurance riding is about freedom and emotion, and AlUla definitely has the potential to become the endurance capital of the Middle East.”
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022 is an international 120 km endurance competition organised in cooperation with the Royal Commission AlUla and Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation, that will feature over 200 riders from more than 30 different countries. It is the third year that the event is being held and offers a prize fund worth $4.2 million.
Participants complete the course by riding four loops that take an average of eight hours to finish.
“Endurance also has a big connection with tourism, which is a very important point because the same track the international riders are using can also be used by amateurs. It is like a gym in an open space,” Laliscia said.
Reflecting back on his experience in Italy last May at the Longines FEI Endurance World Championship 2021 in Pisa he said: “In Italy, where the last World Championship took place, the total amount spent by visitors in that destination during one week was about €20 million ($22.7 million). People like to come and attend endurance events; and these people are very passionate.
“So, if we work well with the FEI, the SEF and the RCU, then I 100 percent believe that AlUla will be the capital of endurance in the Middle East because the people that I’ve met here are all working towards the same goal, which is very important.”
The event will be one of the main attractions of the Winter at Tantora Festival. Phillip Jones, chief destination management and marketing officer of the RCU, said: “AlUla’s equestrian events are key pillars of what is a longer term strategy to share with the world the monumental beauty of AlUla as a place that is unique in the Arabian Peninsula and perfect for exploring on horseback.
“The RCU vision includes significant infrastructure and facilities for the elite end of the sport as well as more riding trails and itineraries for visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of the cultural landscape.
“The experience of horseback riding amongst the desert splendour and rock formations creates unforgettable memories. Our third staging of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup will be no different for our all riders.”