Brian Cookson has reacted to the news that he will be challenged for the next term of UCI presidency by his vice-president David Lappartient, releasing a statement in which he questions the Frenchman's vision for the sport and notes his 'well known personal ambition for the role'.
Cookson, formerly president of British Cycling, succeeded Pat McQuaid as UCI president in 2013 and is coming to the end of his four-year team. He has always voiced his desire to serve a second and final term.
Lappartient is the former president of the French cycling federation and the European Cycling Union, and has served as vice-president at the UCI, under Cookson, for the past four years. He has long been tipped with a bid for the top job in cycling administration, and launched his candidacy on Tuesday with a new website - ourpassion.org - a social media campaign, and a five-pillar project that promises 'real leadership' and 'a real ambition for cycling'.
"Having changed the constitution of the UCI to introduce term limits and improve the election process after the controversial events of four years ago, I respect other people's right to announce their candidature," Cookson wrote in a statement on Tuesday.
"I note that so far David Lappartient has not set out very much detail in his plan or any vision he may have beyond his well known personal ambition for the role. I look forward to debating what matters for the future of cycling over the coming months."
Lappartient's hat was thrown into the ring just 24 hours before the deadline for candidacy registration, though it wouldn't have come as a huge surprise to the Cookson camp.
"David is an ambitious young man and he might decide on being a candidate at some stage," Cookson had said at the Tour Down Under in January, though he did attempt to fend off the challenge until he had served his maximum term. "If I was him, I'd wait another four years as he would probably have an extremely good chance and wouldn't be opposed."
Though working closely together at the head of the UCI, Cookson and Lappartient's relationship hasn't always been plain sailing, with the Frenchman's ties with ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France, a notable source of tension. As Cookson attempted to reform the WorldTour, ASO threatened to pull the Tour and other races from the series, with the UCI eventually backtracking on many of the proposals ASO wasn't happy with.
In his statement on Tuesday, Cookson made his veiled dig at Lappartient but mostly talked about his own credentials.
"I strongly believe that my track record of restoring integrity and credibility to the UCI, and developing cycling over the past four years, together with my plans for a final four year term as president, will be judged favourably by the cycling family at the UCI Congress in Bergen in September," he wrote.
"My plans can be read on my campaign website www.briancookson.org together with some of the messages of support I have been proud to receive from across the cycling world, from those most familiar with the work of my administration.
"That website also contains a summary of the many things which have been achieved over the last four years of my leadership of the UCI across anti-doping, governance, transparency, women's cycling, communication and the development of the sport. Having recently had confirmation from the IOC that at the Tokyo Games we will have additional medals for men's and women's events in both the Madison and BMX Freestyle, I am proud that cycling is now the third largest Olympic sport."
Over the course of the campaign, Cookson may face pressure from Lappartient over his 18 years at the helm of British Cycling, a governing body that has been buffeted by scandal and controversy in recent months. As well as the inadequacies exposed in the body's approach to medical record keeping during his time there, which led the head of a parliamentary committee to describe its reputation as being 'in tatters', a recent report upheld claims of a 'culture of fear' in a damning assessment of governance and leadership.
Damian Collins, the head of that parliamentary committee investigating doping in sport, recently voiced his opposition to Cookson's re-election, saying: "In light of the findings of the independent review, I do not believe that Brian Cookson should be re-elected as head of the UCI – he certainly shouldn't receive any support from UK Sport for his campaign." His comments were rejected by British Cycling.
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