Cookson: I'd beat Lappartient if UCI election was tomorrow

'I think that I've got very substantial support,' says current leader

Brian Cookson is confident of beating his challenger for the UCI Presidency, David Lappartient, even if the election was to take place tomorrow.

Speaking at a recent press event in London, the current UCI leader stressed that he was the right man to head up the governing body, and insinuated that Lappartient was both disloyal and a career politician.

Cookson was asked the specific question as to whether he would beat his French challenger if the election took place within 24 hours.

"Yes, but I'm not complacent about it. We've seen some odd results in elections in the last few months. I know that I have to keep explaining the successes from the last few years and that I'm the right man to take the helm for the next four years," he said.

"I remember a journalist at the Tour Down Under asking me four or five times if I David was loyal. It's fair to say that I avoided the question at the time. I think it's fair to say that perhaps he's been preparing to mount this bid for quite some time," Cookson added.

The UCI election takes place in September during the Road World Championships in Norway. Cookson is standing for a second term, having beaten Pat McQuaid in 2013. Lappartient has served as the head of the European Cycling Union, a UCI Vice-President and president of the Professional Cycling Council, but announced his candidacy for the top spot in June. He announced back in October 2016 that he would not seek re-election as head of the French Cycling Federation (FFC).

The UCI election is won and lost through an electoral college system, with 185 member federations represented by five confederations. The Union Européenne de Cyclisme, currently headed by Lappartient, has 15 votes, Africa, Asia and Pan-America each have nine, while Oceania has three.

"I think that I've got very substantial support in all of them [ed. the confederations]. Even though David maybe president of the European Cycling Union, I don't think that he has all of the votes. I think that there will be those that are sympathetic to me and understand the progress that's been made in the last four years. I think that I've got a lot of support around the world, and I'll be meeting and talking to people over the next weeks to consolidate that."

In recent weeks Lappartient has launched a number of attacks against Cookson's presidency, most notably over a perceived lack of leadership and a number of concessions made in the reformatting of the UCI WorldTour. Cookson conceded that the elite race schedule needed further improvements but he fired back at Lappartient over the issue of responsibility.

"The WorldTour is a work in progress," he said. "It's a little strange to hear David criticising it when he was the president of the Professional Cycling Council. That's been his job for the last four years."

Cookson stressed that when he took up the mantle from McQuaid four years ago professional cycling was in disarray and lacking credibility.

"People can remember what a disastrous position the UCI was in then. I was the one that put my head above the parapet and no one else wanted to take that on. No one else wanted to take on the status quo or the people that had run cycling into the ground.”

He pointed to improvements in women's cycling and the Olympic programme as other areas of his success, while stating that he had brought credibility back to the sport.

"We've invested a massive amount of effort into that with the Women's WorldTour. There's a long way to go to give women equality with men but we've made a great start. We've put the UCI on a really good footing. We've got good relations with WADA. We used to be constantly at war with them. We've got good relations with the Olympic movement when four years ago we were threatened with being removed from the Games altogether. Now we have four new events and we are the third biggest sport in the Games. That's the leadership that I've shown and that's what I want to build on for the next four years."

The on going investigations into British Cycling and Team Sky, and recent comments from British MP Damien Collins – who called for UK Sport to rescind their support for Cookson – have raised questions over Cookson's credentials.

"I don't think that it's damaging to me, in terms of the UCI, because people around the world are very focused on the UCI and not what's happened in British Cycling," he said.

"They are aware that someone that they've never heard of before has made some comments about me. It's not helpful that an MP would make those comments, but it's strange that he would do that without contacting me to discuss the situation."

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