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Digging for Gold in the Sand

Possibly the most amusing moment of the season is slowly unfolding, as Cycling gears up for the Abu Dhabi Race of Champions in November. First prize is a million bucks. Six teams will qualify by winning either a grand tour GC or team competition. A UAE team and five other wild cards will fill out the dance card.

There is something simple, old school, even a bit romantic about someone ponying up a big purse and daring the riders to come out and try to grab it. No sponsor, history, protocol... just who wants a payday and is willing to race hard for it. Holding the race in November means everyone who wants to be available should have few conflicts. Danilo DiLuca has already declared his intentions.

The whole race, starting with the website, is a trip. 212 km in three days: a flat stage, a mountain stage, and a concluding 24km time trial. I never pictured mountains in Abu Dhabi, but Wikipedia has a nice description of the road up Jebel Hafeet. This race won't be won by a sprinter, and the time trial is too short to have major gaps. So it should come down to the classics climbers to separate from the field, and settle the final placings in the time trial. DiLuca is a pretty good bet on this kind of terrain.