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UCI President Pat McQuaid was on hand to see the riders off
Briton's questioned over previous commitment not to run for position
Pat McQuaid has responded to Brian Cookson's decision to stand against him for presidency of the UCI by firing off a series of accusations and questions about who is helping and backing his candidacy and his independence.
In a letter addressed to the presidents of the national federations governed by the UCI, McQuaid questioned why Cookson has done an about turn after publically supporting the Irishman in January. He also openly quizzed Cookson on his links to Russia's Igor Makarov, one of McQuaid's rivals on the UCI Management Committee.
"While I would welcome any candidate to stand - the UCI will always be a democracy while I am in office - I must admit that I find Mr Cookson's decision to be an odd one for a number of different reasons," wrote McQuaid in the letter posted online.
The letter continues by reminding the nation's presidents of former public and private statements in which Cookson voiced his support of the current UCI president.
McQuaid revealed that Cookson had offered him his support in a private letter, saying: "A number of people (outside of UCI circles) have asked me if I would be interested in becoming UCI President ... My response has always been that I am supportive of you, that I do not think you should nor will be resigning, and that it is not on my personal agenda, nor am I seeking that office."
Cookson has told Cyclingnews in Q&A interview that he may have initially expressed support for McQuaid but in light of USADA's Reasoned Decision, the failings of the independent commission along with a lack of support from WADA, the British Cycling president changed his stance.
"I thought that at the time it was essential to give Pat McQuaid and the UCI some time to resolve some of the issues and clarify things going forward. Things have not improved in the way that I would have hoped. We're still suffering the same old problems and now we're in the situation where the deadline is fast approaching for nominations of the presidency and I thought the right thing to do was to say that I am prepared to put my head above the parapet and be a candidate and that's why I've changed my mind." Cookson told Cyclingnews.
A pawn in a larger game
McQuaid also expressed a more serious concern over the rumoured links between Cookson and former UCI Management Committee member Wojciech Walkiewicz who, according to McQuaid has been attempting to establish a suitable UCI presidential candidate. If such a link is true, that candidate appears to be Cookson - which troubles McQuaid.
"Mr Walkiewicz is employed by UCI Management Committee member Igor Makarov. A number of other Management Committee members have told me that they had been invited to Moscow but had refused. Mr Cookson, however, informed me recently that he was going to Moscow to meet with Mr Makarov and Mr Walkiewicz. I have subsequently had confirmation that at least one meeting took place, although perhaps in a different capital city," McQuaid writes in his letter.
"I fear Mr Cookson may be a pawn in a larger game. Mr Makarov, owner of Katusha, has expressed his anger on a number of occasions that the UCI Licence Commission denied his team a place in the 2013 WorldTour for 'ethical reasons'. The independence and impartiality of the Licence Commission is exactly the sort of positive step forward that the UCI has taken in the past decade."
The Katusha team were initially denied a renewal of its WorldTour license for 2013 and were subsequently left off the invited wildcard teams for the Giro d'Italia. It took an appeal to the Court of Abitration for Sport (CAS) before Katusha was finally awarded its WorldTour license - making for an unprecedented 19 top-tier teams for 2013.
"Mr Cookson's decision to announce his candidacy for the UCI President raises a number of important issues. Given all this, I think it is for Mr Cookson to explain his reasons for meeting Mr Makarov at the behest of Mr Walkiewicz. All three men have strong ties to World Tour teams. In the interest of transparency, Mr Cookson must answer a number of questions and I intend writing to him to seek clarification..." said McQuaid before listing a number of initial questions relating to the reported ties to the Katusha owner.
In closing salvo, McQuaid stated that his priorities for his possible third term will be made public in the coming weeks and that it will have a global focus and "not just British, or Irish, or even Russian."