Cookson's presidential campaign boosted by European vote

UCI Presidential Candidate Brian Cookson

UCI Presidential Candidate Brian Cookson (Image credit: Will Shand)

Brian Cookson left the Union Européenne de Cyclisme (UEC) exceptional general assembly in Zurich assured of 14 key votes for the election of UCI president and the growing conviction that a vital majority of the 42 delegates will vote for him and not incumbent president Pat McQuaid in Florence on September 27.

The UEC members who gathered in Zurich voted 27-10 in favour of Cookson, a bigger majority than his team expected. McQuaid may be confident of securing many of the African and Asian confederation votes but the backing from the UEC gives Cookson 33% of the 42 votes that will be cast in Florence by the different confederation delegates.

It is likely that the Americas confederation votes will now be play a vital role in the battle to become UCI president. Cyclingnews understands that Cookson spent several days in Miami last week courting key voters from the Americas with support from Mike Plant of the USA. Plant is now firmly on Cookson's side after years of being aligned with Hein Verbruggen, McQuaid, Lance Armstrong and Tom Weisel.

Cookson also has the support of Russian oligarch Igor Makarov, the boss of the Itera gas company, president of the Russian Cycling Federation and the owner of the Katusha team.

Many people have cringed at Cookson's links to Plant and Makarov but he denied striking up a combine with the Russian to beat McQuaid.

"I've met many people and Igor Makarov is one of them," Cookson said when asked about his relationship with the olygarch.

"I think I've met him as many times as Pat McQuaid has met him. Igor is the owner of one of the biggest professional teams, he's the president of one of the major federations and he's on the management committee. Yes, of course, I need his support. But have I made any commitments to him? No I haven't. Have I received any funding from him or from any of his associates? No I haven't. As far as I'm concerned, he's an important member of the UCI family and deserves respect and consideration just like anybody else."

No billionaire campaign budget

Although it seems Cookson decided to stand for UCI president after meeting Makarov in Moscow, he insisted that the billionaire is not funding his election campaign.

"I've been flying economy class," he said.

"My funding is coming from British Cycling. We have a small budget. It's being supplemented because we haven’t really spent that much. Most of this kind of funding comes from UK sport. I'm sure the costs will be covered by the budget we have available to us."

The worries of a secret ballot

Many of the national federation representitives at the UEC assembly have known McQuaid and Cookson for many years. Yet McQuaid seemed like the outsider rather than the current UCI president during the assembly, while lots of people appeared to be climbing on the Cookson bandwagon.

The final vote in Florence is a secret vote and McQuaid hinted not all 14 votes will go to Cookson. However the Briton said he trusts his European collegues.

"It's a secret ballot, but I'm sure the will of the congress, the democratic mandate that they've been given, will be respected," he said.

The UEC delegates also voted against propositions to change the UCI constitution before the presidential vote; changes that would allow McQuaid to be nominated despite not having the support of his home Irish Federation or that of the Swiss Federation, where he resides. If the UCI Congress also votes against the changes it would block McQuaid's hopes of a third term and leave Cookson as the lone candidate.

"I'm happy for there to be two candidates. If there are, then I'm confident that I can secure victory," Cookson said.

"If all the problems that Pat has had in finding a nomination fall apart for him and there is only one candidate, then as in the commitment I made (in my speech), I will still ask the delegates to vote yes or no for me. I'm confident I can win under those circumstances as well."

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