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Former rider wants a velvet revolution at the European Cycling Union
Andrei Tchmil has told Cyclingnews that he has no plans to challenge Pat McQuaid for the role of UCI President in September, insisting his only short-term goal is to become the next president of the European Cycling Union (UEC).
The former classics winner and Katusha team manager published a detailed manifesto in January, promising to defend the interests of European cycling and help develop the sport on every level, especially in Eastern Europe.
Elections will be held on March 3 in Paris at the UEC annual general meeting. Tchmil's only rival is David Lappartient – the president of the French Cycling Federation. The ambitious Frenchman reportedly has the tacit support of the UCI but Tchmil has tried to undermine his rival's campaign by questioning his impartiality and dedication to the role.
Speaking exclusively to Cyclingnews, Tchmil insisted he no longer has a working relation with Russian Oligarch Igor Makarov, who has bankrolled the Katusha team and the Global Cycling Project designed to develop Russian cycling.
"I want to make it clear once and for all, that I've no plans to run for the position of UCI president in September because my objective is to become president of the European Cycling Union," Tchmil told Cyclingnews.
"My programme is a serious proposal about what I want to do for cycling in Europe and how I want to strengthen the role of the UEC. Europe is the birthplace of cycling and deserves more respect. 85% of professional races are held in Europe and more has to be done to protect and develop them."
Tchmil is wealthy after his long and successful career that spanned between 1989 and 2002. He was the minister for Sport in his home country of Moldova for a while but has always preferred to live near Lake Garda in Italy.
"I've made choices in life that have always linked to cycling. I was the first Soviet rider to turn professional, I was able to get some good results, I was able to direct the Global Cycling Project to help develop Russian cycling. I don’t see why I can’t do something to help cycling now. I'm ready to work hard and give something back," he said.
A European Tour
To protect European races, Tchmil has proposed a European Tour, grouping together all the major European races that aren't on the UCI WorldTour calendar. He appears willing to share the TV and sponsor revenue and combine resources between the organisers and teams.
"At the moment if a race isn’t part of the WorldTour it's risking extinction. I think we need to create a European circuit, with different rules, where the organisers, teams and riders have a totally new and different kind of agreement," he explained.
Any new race series would threaten the UCI's control of the sport. Tchmil treads carefully when talking about the UCI but is ready to stand up to McQuaid in the interests of European cycling.
"There's no conflict with the UCI. The races already exist and so we've only got to reevaluate them," he claimed.
"The UCI is the global governing body and so can't represent the interests of a single continent. I think the UCI understands the importance of European cycling. I believe the UCI should have protected the European races more as the sport has developed in the last 20 years. Not every race should be on the same level."
"I'm not a threat to the UCI, I want to work with the UCI, but I'm not afraid to stand up to them either. I learnt in life that if you don’t ask for things, you don’t get them."
Despite the UCI's failings, Tchmil is happy to defend McQuaid, preferring to lead a velvet revolution in European cycling, rather than spark an aggressive confrontation.
"McQuaid has done a lot for cycling and given it a lot more credibility thanks to the biological passport, out of competition controls and medical rules," Tchmil said.
"Everyone talks all the time and gives their point of view now. But the question is, where were all these people four years ago? The UCI is a democratic organisation. If they weren't happy with him as a candidate, they could have voted a different person before the Armstrong case exploded. But they didn't."
Tchmil's own position and his own ethics could be called into doubt and raise questions about his suitability for an important role in sports politics. He was the team manager at Katusha for three years, building the team from scratch. He claims the team's current ethical problems and the refusal of the UCI licence Commission to give the team WorldTour licence have nothing to do with him.
"I'm haven’t been part of the Katusha team since November 2011. I'm not in contact with (team owner) Igor Makarov, even if people try to link me to him and his plans. I'm doing my own thing, my own election strategy and I don’t want to be linked to the mercenary way that he finances a candidate," Tchmil said.
"When I was the manager, Katusha was the first team to introduce fines of five times a rider's salary if they tested positive. I left the team in November 2011 and the internal rule was abandoned…."
"I've got my opinion on what's happened at Katusha but I'm not going share it with anyone at the moment. It could be seen as a vendetta but it's not. What happened is strange. We'll see how it all works out but it's a pity because it also affects the development of Russian cycling. The structure was in place, now it's falling apart."