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Cookson, McQuaid start final push ahead of UCI elections

Cookson, McQuaid attempting to rally support with the controversial UCI election less than one month away

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The campaigns of Brian Cookson and current UCI president Pat McQuaid are going full-steam ahead with less than a month before the governing body’s presidential elections on September 27 in Florence, Italy.

Cookson, the president of British Cycling, is on a whirlwind tour to garner votes. He visited the Oceania region last weekend and arrived in South Africa this week. In Australia, Cookson stopped long enough to meet in person with Cycling Australia personnel at its offices in Melbourne and, yes, to squeeze in a ride by Sydney’s Bondi Beach.

The Englishman competed at the amateur level and has served as British Cycling’s president since 1997. His focus now is to end the Irishman McQuaid’s eight-year run as the UCI’s boss and to take the governing body in a new direction. To succeed, he needs votes.

Cookson addressed Cycling Australia’s board on Saturday and received its full support the following day.

“After meeting with Mr. Cookson this weekend, where he detailed his vision to rebuild trust in the UCI and grow cycling worldwide, my board has carefully considered the options before it and decided that Brian Cookson is the best candidate to restore both the sport’s and the UCI’s credibility,” Cycling Australia president Klaus Mueller said in a statement.

Crucial votes and Zurich meeting

Mueller believes that the other two Oceania nations, Fiji and New Zealand, will follow suit. It would give Cookson three crucial votes in the election, which will take place during the road world championships in Florence.

“Three votes are important,” Cookson told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I wouldn’t dream of taking any of them for granted.”

The five regions — Oceania, Africa, Asia, America, and Europe — cast 42 votes in a secret ballot. With 14 delegates, Europe has 33 percent of the voting power. Oceania has seven percent and Africa, with seven delegates, has 17 percent. It all adds up to why Cookson is meeting and greeting.

Cookson said over the weekend that he offered to meet with the Asian confederation, which has nine delegates, but President Hee Wook Cho turned him down. He said they would vote for McQuaid, which should not come as a surprise — except that McQuaid does not hold the necessary nomination to officially stand as a candidate at the present time.

With the Irishman’s nomination from his home country rescinded and Swiss support in doubt, Cho proposed a change to the UCI Constitution that would allow presidential candidates to run with the backing of any two federations — home or not. Soon after, and detailed in the same UCI press release, the Thai and Moroccan federations announced their nominations of McQuaid. The move is shrouded in controversy and dependent on backing by the UCI’s congress. The vote will come on September 27, prior to the presidential vote.

“UCI staff took it upon themselves to generate a retrospective rule change that could only benefit Mr. McQuaid,” Cookson told Scotland’s Herald Sport newspaper. “The leadership sets the tone for the entire sport and this latest series of twists, turns, and manipulation is just the latest symptom of the disfunctional way in which the UCI has settled into conducting its business.”

If the congress backs the change, it likely will elect McQuaid for a third term. McQuaid, assuming he has all of Africa — which sources have told VeloNews is not a certainty — and Asia’s 16 votes, would only need another six to win. Mike Plant, the American member of the UCI Management Committee, has become an outspoken critic of the sitting president and will surely attempt to rally support for Cookson from the America federations as Florence draws nearer.

And in Europe, the European Cycling Union announced this week that Cookson and McQuaid would present their platforms and hold a debate September 15 in Zurich. The union also said it would discuss the nomination rule proposal. It will be a crucial showing for McQuaid, whose re-election could be completely derailed, and for the future of cycling.