After weeks of political stand-off, accusations and threats, the world championships senior men’s road race eventually got under-way this morning.

But as the riders, including Alejandro Valverde and Paolo Bettini, stood on the start line, the atmosphere felt more like a minutes silence than the start of the biggest one-day race on the calendar.

In the hour before, the riders had signed on in a covered tent, well away from the fans, it all felt very awkward. Signing on is normally done on a stage, in front of the fans, with a commentator introducing the riders, doing the odd interview and building the excitement.

Here in Stuttgart the riders rolled up to a small, enclosed tent, completely hidden from fans and signed on in front of a few photographers and journalists. Bettini, the outgoing world champion, came and went in a matter of seconds, and in complete silence.

Although the organisers can be applauded for their anti-doping stance, there’s a strong feeling here of ‘why did they bother in the first place?’ Their attempts to stop certain riders from taking part have failed, but rather than move on, satisfied in the knowledge that they’d done everything they could to put on a clean event with credible riders, they’ve continued with their fight, and are making more enemies by the day.

But most importantly, their actions have now penalised the fans.

2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS NEWS
Bettini fires back
Comment: Stuttgart embarrassed by Worlds
Bellis: “Biggest success of my career”
Pooley: “My tenth place was earned by the team”
Bettini cleared to race by Stuttgart courts
McQuaid gives Bettini green light to race
Bettini in Worlds but Di Luca is out
Wiggins and Millar disappointed with TT ride
Bettini denies supplying drugs to Sinkewitz
Valverde can race at World Championships
Eddy Merckx not welcome at Worlds
Cooke out of Worlds, Brailsford names GB squad
British team get extra places for U23 Worlds
Boonen out of Worlds
Should Valverde ride the Worlds?

2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE
Bettini back on top
Bellis takes Under-23 bronze
Gold and bronze for Italy in women’s road race
Cancellara retains World TT title
2007 Road World Championships preview
Elite Men Time Trial: full start list
Elite Women’s Time Trial: Pooley takes eighth,
Under-23 Time Trial: Boom takes second world title in 2007
TV guide: World Champs on British Eurosport
TV guide: World Champs on BBC

2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS PHOTO GALLERIES
Elite Men’s Road Race
Elite Women’s Road Race
Under-23 Men Road Race
Elite Men’s Time Trial
Elite Women’s Time Trial World Championships
Men’s Under-23 Time Trial World Championships

2006 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
World Champs 2006: Cancellara nets gold in TT
World Champs 2006: Cooke blasts to bronze in Salzburg

EXTERNAL LINKS
Official 2007 Road World Championships website: www.radwm2007.com.
Union Cycliste Internationale: www.uci.ch.