Brian Cookson was left shocked and disappointed when he heard he had lost the UCI presidential election to rival David Lappartient. He perhaps knew he faced an uphill battle after many delegates turned against him but he seemed stunned by the final vote of 37-8.
It was a landslide victory for the Frenchman and suddenly brought the curtain down on Cookson's time as president.
After an emotional but brief farewell speech, Cookson was given a standing ovation by the many federation representatives in the congress room. However, many were also quick to pose for photos with Lappartient, while far fewer made the effort to personally commiserate with Cookson.
"I'm a little emotional, of course, it means a lot to me," Cookson told Cyclingnews as he left the stage of the congress.
"I've spent the last four years working really hard, I've travelled a lot, not just to put my face around and take selfies with some silly people who've criticised me on Twitter, but to actually try and learn and understand and help our national federations in what they're doing.
"I expected to win. But that's life, that's politics. Life goes on. I'm proud of what I achieved over the last four years and I'm leaving with my head held high."
Cookson offered little explanation for his huge defeat and declined to speculate if the votes were for Lappartient or against him and his four years of governance.
"You'll have to ask the voting delegates – I can't really answer that," he said diplomatically.
"I'm surprised at the scale of the vote, very surprised. I thought the result would be considerably closer than that. I'm disappointed not to be able to continue what I've been doing for the last four years, but I wish David and the new Management Committee very well in their work to continue the progress the UCI has made in those last four years.
"I think I've done a good job, I made a good speech and presentation. I think the results of the UCI – financially, administratively, and legally – over the last four years have been very good. But obviously the voting delegates decided they wanted a change in leadership, and I respect that."
ASO and the French connection
Cookson avoided openly criticizing Lappartient but highlighted what his biggest problem will be as the new UCI President: dealing with the often difficult relationship with Tour de France organizer ASO.
There is concern that the French connection between Lappartient and ASO could lead to a conflict of interest for the new UCI president. Lappartient promised impartiality but Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme was one of the first to congratulate Lappartient on his victory, hugging his compatriot tightly.
"That's a challenge for David," Cookson said.
"The ASO is a very good organization but they have a quasi-monopoly. In any industry, monopolies are not a good thing. Regulators don't like to see monopolies and, in effect, the UCI is a regulator in that sense. I think that will be a real challenge for David, to balance the interests of ASO against the interests of all the other stakeholders. That's one of the things I've tried to do and that's one of the things that will continue to be a challenge for David."
Cookson turned 66 in June and announced that he will now return to live in his native Lancashire, north of Manchester, but he will continue to attend UCI events and races. Unlike with Pat McQuaid when he was defeated in 2013, Lappartient said Cookson would be welcome back.
"I'm now going to have a glass of wine or two and I'll also stay around here because I want to experience this fantastic World Championships in Bergen, which is the first one appointed under my management," Cookson said.
"I'll be going home and getting on with riding my bike in the Manchester velodrome and Lancashire hills, and I'll be enjoying my life. Life goes on, and I won't be going away."
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