Russian oligarch Igor Makarov has told Cyclingnews that he believes it would be "devastating" for cycling if Pat McQuaid were re-elected as UCI president.
Makarov is the president of the Russian cycling federation and is a strategically important supporter of Brian Cookson's presidential bid because of his sway of influence in Eastern Europe.
He is a member on the UCI Management Committee but has been working hard behind the scenes to stop McQuaid from being re-elected. He has turned against McQuaid in recent times, with the final straw being when the Russian Katusha team was denied a UCI WorldTour licence for 2013. Katusha was forced to appeal to CAS to secure a place in the WorldTour.
Makarov also instigated the private investigation into McQuaid, drawing up a controversial dossier which alleged that he took and solicited bribes, helped bend rules for Lance Armstrong in exchange of favours and tried to cover up Alberto Contador's positive doping test in the 2010 Tour de France in exchange for money. McQuaid has denied all the accusations and attacked Makarov, questioning his reasons for supporting Cookson.
As the hours counted down to the presidential election vote on Friday, Makarov told Cyclingnews and two other media in Florence that it is time for change at the UCI, repeating his endorsement of Brian Cookson.
"We're in the 21st century, and McQuaid and Verbruggen are part of the past. We've got look to the future,' he said in a rare interview.
"We don't like the changes that have been going on at the UCI lately. That's why we need a new person. Brian Cookson has proved that he can be the head of international cycling by raising the level of British cycling very high. We've got to look to the future."
Walk away if McQuaid is elected
Makarov and his huge Itera gas company have funded the Russian Global Cycling project that includes he Katusha and Rusvelo teams in recent years. He is trying to revive the success of Russian cycling but said he would walk if McQuaid were re-elected.
"There's no point in staying in the UCI if they continue to go the way they are. We can't work as in the past. The UCI constitution and its rules are very old fashioned," he said.
"We need to change the Management Committee. The sports needs to be forward thinking and to be run by a board of directors. All the decision of the UCI Management Committee should be collegial, they have to be made by all the members. Right now only one person can decide everything."
USADA investigating the dossier
Makarov's explosive report on McQuaid has further polarized opinion before the election.
Its contents and accusations have yet to be formally studied and investigated by the UCI Ethics Committee, but Makarov confirmed that the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) who uncovered and convicted Lance Armstrong for doping, is no looking into the accusations of the dossier.
"The dossier was never meant to be public. It's a pity it was leaked," Makarov said.
"It was made by several people who care about the future of cycling. The purpose of it was to find out what was really going in the UCI management. All the files have been passed to USADA and now it's up to them. The investigation is ongoing. It's up to them now."
"The dossier was made by an independent US company. I didn't take part in the investigation. We can't disclose any of the contents while the USADA investigation is going on. It also specifically concerns one person, and it's not for me to decide if should be made public."
Using his personal wealth
McQuaid has accused Makarov of using his personal wealth to influence the election campaign and to try to take control of the UCI. McQuaid revealed that Makarov sponsored the European Cycling Union with a donation of one million dollars to strengthen his influence.
Makarov dismissed those accusations with a smile and a shrug, insisting he did it for the good of the sport he loves.
"I'm a billionaire. I have a private, not public business. But before all that, I'm a former cyclist and have great passion for cycling. I even still ride my bike four times a week," he said.
"I'm the president of the Russian Cycling Federation, on the UCI Management Committee and the head of the Katusha team. I want Russian cycling to be at the same level as other major nations. There's nobody else in Russia who would do this, I feel it's my destiny," he said.
Having the possibility to financial influence the European Cycling Union is special for me. The small former Soviet countries like Latvia, Estonia, Armenia and others really need financial help. I want to help them develop as I'm trying to develop the Russian federation. We're all linked and all part of cycling."
Not sure of victory
The UCI Congress will decide the next president of cycling international governing body on Friday. The vote of 42 delegates represents the different continental confederations and the national cycling federations. Cookson has the backing of the 14 European Cycling Union delegates, three from Oceania and perhaps others from the Americas. McQuaid has support from Asia and Africa.
Makarov refused to predict that Cookson has secured enough votes to win the presidential election after recent trip to Miami to meet South American delegates. He is almost superstitious about the outcome.
"I'm a former racer and was in the Russian national team for 15 years. We had a saying: 'Even when you're sure of victory, you should never say it because it brings bad luck.' But I want Cookson to win. Because we're sure he'll bring about change for the good of the future of cycling."