FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Critics are calling for a quick end to Brian Cookson’s tenure with cycling’s presidential elections approaching in September. Manager of Team FDJ, and former Paris-Roubaix winner, Frenchman Marc Madiot says that Cookson’s presidency threatens cycling’s dearest races.
Depending on those polled, the changes have not been thorough enough or have been misguided.
“We need a revolution, a full reconsideration of the function of cycling,” Madiot wrote in his online diary. “And this requires the election of a new president.”
In May, Cookson confirmed that he would run for re-election. Frenchman David Lappartient appears to be Cookson’s main rival in the elections, which are due to be held alongside the world championships in Bergen, Norway, September 2017. Lappartient, besides being UCI vice president, currently presides over the European Cycling Union, the French Cycling Federation and the Professional Cycling Council.
“Lappartient has the support,” Madiot said. “It must be like in politics: Come up with a real program written in black and white, and which is achievable.”
Cookson pushed through a controversial and hard-fought reform that saw 11 races added to an already busy WorldTour calendar. Some of those additions, including the Tour of Turkey and the Tour of Guangxi, were met with criticism.
The Tour of Qatar, one of the new 11 additions, has since announced it will fold after 15 years.
The teams resisted the massive amount of new races to the WorldTour. The UCI conceded. Unlike the other 27 WorldTour races, the new 11 events may be skipped by the WorldTour teams. The points earned also count differently.
Both the duality and overlapping with historical non-WorldTour events caused a significant amount of criticism.
“There’s no protection for the historic races, like Trentino with 40 years of history,” director of the Giro del Trentino, Maurizio Evangelista told VeloNews. “All you need is a new organization to arrive with a suitcase of money to cause trouble.”
Evangelista said that with just added prize money and reimbursement payments, there was an added cost of 120,000 euros ($127,145) if he wanted his HC-ranked race promoted into the WorldTour. He added, “It had many demands but without many guarantees.”
Some say that Cookson saw through the new races in various corners of the globe to ensure votes from those countries’ delegates in the September elections.
“If we continue on this path, it will be very costly for a sacred part of the calendar in the years to come, and not only on French races,” Madiot added. “This isn’t anything that happened with Qatar, they have to cancel the race, they had a reason …
“The strength of cycling is its history. We must preserve the European historic races that are already difficult to organize. So if we create new events in exotic countries that further complicates things.”
McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen recently took aim at Cookson.
“Looking at the current, rather chaotic situation, one has to conclude [professional cycling] is not ‘succeeding,’” Dutchman Verbruggen wrote in a letter to Cookson and the UCI in October.
“Today, it is not only the teams that remain financially fragile, with their sustainability threatened, but also riders’ employment is equally fragile. The [WorldTour] identity and narrative is diminished.
“I can understand why your current ‘reform’ plans do not appear to have much support, neither from your major stakeholders (with perhaps one exception) nor from other cycling experts (including the media). Moreover, logic would suggest that, for the time being, you don’t make decisions that are widely contested.”
Verbruggen and Cookson have long been at odds. He and McQuaid both were mentioned in the “Reasoned Decision” that led to Armstrong’s lifetime ban. A Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report pushed through by Cookson highlighted incidents where the former presidents accepted money from Armstrong and helped cover-up positive dope tests, but stopped short of providing evidence.