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
2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS COVERAGE
2007 ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS PHOTO GALLERIES
2006 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Official 2007 Road World Championships website: www.radwm2007.com.
Union Cycliste Internationale: www.uci.ch.