Brian Cookson has arrived in Bergen, Norway for the UCI Road World Championships confident that he can defeat rival David Lappartient and so secure a second term as UCI president when delegates vote on Thursday.
Cookson travelled directly to Bergen from the International Olympic Committee session in Peru. There he suggested to Inside the Games website that he has 30 of the 45 delegate votes that will decide the presidential elections on Thursday. Speaking to Cyclingnews at the kick off press conference for the eight days of time trials and road races, Cookson was cautious about predicting a final result but was confident his time as UCI president will not end this week.
"I was asked to put a figure on it, so I plucked 30 out of the air. The fact is that you can't count any number until the votes are counted," he told Cyclingnews in Bergen.
"However what I'm trying to say is that I think I'm substantially ahead. People tell me they want to see me continue the work I've been doing for another fours years. They don't see an appetite for change at the UCI and I'm up for carrying on for another four years because I still think there's work to do."
The 45 voting delegates in the presidential elections represent the different Federations and Continents around the world. Europe has a block of 15 votes, while Africa, Asia and the Americas have nine delegates each and Oceania has three votes. A simple majority is enough to win the election.
In 2013 when Cookson defeated Pat McQuaid after a continuous election campaign, he had the backing of all the European delegates, who were mandated to vote for him. This time the European Cycling Union member Federations will only finalise their vote at special meeting in Bergen before Thursday election. It seems they are divided on their preferred candidate. Lappartient is the president of the UEC.
"I don't think there's going to be block voting. I think quite a few of the European delegates will support me, as I think quite a few of the other delegates will support me," Cookson predicted.
"Of course, I'm not complacent and people can change their minds. We've seen some very strange results in elections in the last couple of years in all sort of places but I think we're going to have a more interesting and more 'normal' congress than in the past."
Improvements during the last fours years
Both Cookson and Lappartient have published election manifestos but after serving as UCI president and UCI vice-president their promises are very similar. Lappartient believes he can offer stronger leadership, while Cookson offers continuity and wants to finish off the work he has started.
"People can see my track record from the last four years and people can also understand that you cannot achieve everything that needs to be achieved in four years. The world doesn't work like that. People understand that another four years are in need of stability and to continue the developments we've started," Cookson argued.
"Just think about how things were fours years ago: We were threatened from being removed from the Olympic movement. Now we're the third biggest sport, with four new events in the Olympic programme. Four years ago the Tour de France was not broadcast on German television, now it's started again this year. The women's scene has been transformed, there's a long way to go but we're making great progress. The World Cycling Centres have also been a success and we've got a dozen riders on WorldTour teams now. We're seeing all kinds of improvements.
"I think we're working well as a Federation, we've got a substantial amount of reserves in the bank, so we're financially stable now. I think myself, my team, the UCI Management Committee and the senior management can be proud of what we've done. I think the voting delegates will recognise that."
Cookson insisted he is not concerned about being tarnished by recent accusations and investigations at British Cycling and Team Sky.
"I'm very proud of the 17 years I spent as president of British Cycling. In 1996 we'd won one Olympic medal, no women had won an Olympic medal and the memberships was a minor sport. We transformed all of those things," he said.
"Elite sport is never a comfortable place to be. Nobody wants anybody to feel bullied or intimidated and if things needed to change to put that situation right in certain cases, then that's a good thing."