By Jean-François Quénet in Paris
David Lappartient, 35, is the new president of the French cycling federation winning an election over Michel Callot by 347 votes to 265 this week. The third candidate, French cycling legend Cyrille Guimard, didn't even collect 1% of the votes. "Guimard's bid has helped the campaign to be very constructive," Lappartient emphasized. Outgoing boss Jean Pitallier, 76, didn't go for a third term and was warmly applauded by the delegates although it was unanimously time for a change at the head of the FFC.
Strangely, in the 130 years of history of the French cycling federation, Lappartient is the first president hailing from Brittany, the hot bed of French cycling, where he organises the professional GP Plumelec every year at the end of May. He's also the youngest president of an Olympic federation in France, following the paths of Daniel Baal who was also elected at the age of 35 in 1993. Together with swimming, cycling was the most successful of the French sports with six medals at last year's Olympics in Beijing.
But Lappartient wants more. "I want France to become again the most successful country in terms of medals at the Olympics in 2012 or at the latest in 2016." A new national centre of cycling will open with an indoor velodrome and a BMX track in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in the western outskirts of Paris in July 2012 and that will also be the headquarters of the FFC.
Already a board member of the UCI, Lappartient wants to restore good relationships between the national and international governing bodies. The previous rift between the UCI and the FFC under Petallier hurt the French by preventing them from bidding on any championships. "We want France to organise world championships again but we couldn't place any bid in 2008 because we were suspended," he recalled.
"Our first goal will be for the cyclo-cross in 2013 and we'll bid for the road as well from 2014 onwards, although we know it'll be difficult to collect the 10 million euros necessary to organise them," he added. In the past 20 years, the road World's have been held only once in France, in Plouay 2000 with an enormous popular success, while Italy held the race four times during the same period and has more plans for Florence in the future.
Lappartient will also ask strongly for the ban of the radio communication between team cars and riders, a subject he has worked on inside the UCI in the past two years already. "If I'm not mistaken, during the 2008 Tour de France the FFC has showed its authority on the national territory," he warned about a race that was organised and controlled without the participation of the UCI.
Said otherwise, French cycling might again go for its own way, should the UCI fail to make any decision on that matter. "But I'm not a man of conflicts," Lappartient said. He has plans to enlarge the numbers of members of the FFC which is now over 103,071. He also wants to give part of the power back to local clubs with a new electoral system including a possibility of referendum on an exceptional subject.