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.