McQuaid calls Cookson a 'fraud', backs Lappartient in UCI elections

Former UCI President Pat McQuaid has told Cyclingnews that he hopes David Lappartient wins the upcoming UCI presidential election, rather than current president Brian Cookson, describing Cookson as a 'fraud' for lacking the leadership skills for the position.

McQuaid refutes the idea that Cookson has some how managed to steady the ship after replacing him in 2013, and suggested that Cookson has made 'a balls' of managing the UCI WorldTour series by adding races due to political pressure.

McQuaid was defeated by Cookson in the 2013 presidential elections in Florence after the Briton secured vital votes to win 24-18 after hard fought campaign. Cookson secured the 14 votes of the European Cycling Union and had influential support from Russian oligarch and owner of the Katusha team, Igor Makarov. Several delegates changed their vote at the last minute resulting in defeat for McQuaid, who quickly left the sport.

"I'm not involved in cycling politics in any way. I've stayed out of it but was also squeezed out of it when Brian Cookson and Martin Gibbs took over. I was kept off it," McQuaid claimed while speaking to Cyclingnews during a visit to the time trial stage of the Tour de France in Marseille. McQuaid now lives in the south of France and runs a holiday letting business.

"I think there needs to be a change of president because I think Brian's been a fraud," McQuaid said bluntly. "The president is supposed to be the leader, he's supposed to captain the ship, make the political decision, and lead the UCI as an organisation. Brian does neither of those. It's (UCI Director General) Martin Gibbs who takes all the decisions.

"There have been suggestions that Cookson steadied the ship when he was elected, but I don't think the ship was unsteady in 2013. We'd come through the storm with ASO then, we had a good relationship with ASO. Lance Armstrong was history, we'd gone through all of that, and things were going good. In my mind, the ship didn't need steadying. I've talked to people in teams who I've known for a long time and they told me that they're now profiting from the work that I did as UCI President, they were talking about anti-doping and the Biological Passport."

McQuaid refuses to formally endorse current UCI Vice President and head of the UEC David Lappartient but seems to share Lance Armstrong's stance, who recently tweeted: "ABC (Anyone But Cookson)."

"I'm not endorsing anyone, but we definitely do need a change and with David Lappartient the only one to step forward. I'd definitely support him," McQuaid said.

"I don't think him being French is a risk. I've known David a long, long time. He was a race commissaire that we brought out to the Tour de Langkawi and to the Philippines back in the 90s. He was very good. He speaks English very well and sees the sport in a global way.

"There's lot of talk of him being very close to ASO, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. But I know that once you are elected the President of the UCI, you take a different stance, you have to represent the UCI and if there are issues with ASO, you have to face them and work with them."

ASO – the organiser of the Tour de France and several other major races - asserts a huge influence on men's professional cycling. They threatened to leave the UCI WorldTour calendar only for a peace deal to be thrashed out last June. The agreed reforms will come into place in the next few years with further races added to the WorldTour calendar, the number of WorldTour teams reduced from 18 to 16, and a promotion and relegation system set for introduction after 2020.

"They've made a total balls of the WorldTour," McQuaid said. "Adding 10 or 12 races just like that isn't a solution. He got rid of the Tour of Beijing even though it was established. It only needed a good discussion with the mayor of the city for it to continue but they got rid of it. Now they've replaced with another race in China. So there's no logic there.

"The WorldTour should be a streamlined narrative that runs through the season. We nearly had it in 2013 and ASO and others were going to agree on it. Instead after the elections they scrapped that plan and added all these other reasons. Eight or nine of them were put in for political pressure on Cookson. Adding more races has only made it more confusing."

McQuaid also pointed the finger at the UCI for the way they have a managed a trial of disc brake bikes in the professional peloton. The trial was suspended after a crash at the 2016 Paris-Roubaix but then reintroduced this season. However, many riders and teams prefer not to use disc brakes due to safety and technical concerns.

"The disc brake debate is a mess, with the on, off, on, off decisions. They've obviously succumbed to the manufacturers of the disc brakes and to other manufacturers too, to make rule changes to suit them," McQuaid suggested. "Brian talks about being a president of compromise. That's not quite the case.

"It's easy to sit back and wait for everybody to agree if you're not capable of making the decisions. But that will never happen in cycling, especially professional cycling, you've got too many stakeholders. There are teams, riders, organisers, and they're all on the board and looking after their own interests. They rarely give ground and so it's up to the UCI president to take charge and be strong. That's not the case with Brian."

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.