Next Sunday marks 100 days since Brian Cookson was elected UCI president in Florence in late September, succeeding Pat McQuaid. In a video message posted to YouTube, Cookson reflects on what he has achieved in his first three months in office and touches on the progress he is making towards delivering the pledges in his election manifesto.
The former British Cycling president’s manifesto was underpinned by promises to address the issue of doping within cycling and to restore the credibility of the UCI, something that is not going to happen overnight, although he says that he is “really happy with the progress that we’re making.”
On the issue of restoring trust in the UCI, he said: “I think already there’s a sense of change and transformation building in the UCI and in people’s perception of the UCI.
“That’s been really important to me, I wanted to travel around and meet a lot of people and make sure that they understand where I’m coming from and where the new administration of the UCI is coming from. I think we’re getting a really good response.
“From all of the meetings that I’ve had, there was a general feeling that cycling did need a change in leadership, a change in direction, and I’m very, very happy that people are responding very positively to the new direction that I’m hoping to take the UCI in.”
Cookson had already acknowledged earlier in December that he would be unable to announce details of the independent commission he has ordered into doping in cycling and investigating allegations of wrongdoing within the UCI role until the new year; in the video, presumably filmed earlier, he says that he hoped to make an announcement before Christmas.
With his manifesto promising that such an investigation would be conducted within the first six months of his presidency in the event that he were elected, it looks unlikely that he will be able to meet that pledge, although it is likely that’s down to the practicalities of putting the framework for such an investigation in place on the terms he wants.
“We’ve made a lot of progress on this,” he says in the video. “As anyone might imagine there’s a lot of work to be done behind the scenes before something like this can be put on the road, as it were.
“But we’re very close now to final agreement on the terms and conditions of that, we want to make sure that WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, are really supportive of that, and we want to make sure that the wider sporting world, the media and cycling fans understand.”
Another of his key electoral pledges was to develop women’s cycling, including establishing a Women’s Cycling Commission and ensuring that there is a woman on every UCI Commission, both of which he has followed through on within the first three months.
“I think we’re in the middle of an interesting era for women’s sport generally,” he reflects. “I think the media and the public are taking women’s sport much more seriously and that’s something that should have happened years ago.
“I think that all of us men in sport we can probably take some of the responsibility for that and now we have to work much harder. There’s an amazing potential for women in our sport, in cycling, not just at the elite level but in participation as well.
“So having established the women’s commission and having made sure that we have a woman’s voice on every one of our other commissions, then I think we are going to be very well placed to make good benefit from that and to spread those benefits around throughout our sport and the world.”
Refroming the structure of men’s professional cycling was another pillar of Cookson’s campaign. The process had already begun under his predecessor McQuaid, and as we reported in November, early next year the UCI is due to put in place new regulations that will result in an overhaul of the sport to be implemented between 2015 and 2020.
Cookson says: “I think it’s vital for any professional sport to have a strong economic foundation; cycling’s economic foundation has been quite weak, and it’s been weaker still in recent years.
“We’ve lost a number of teams, we’ve lost a number of events. But we have also got some great potential around the world, places where cycling is stronger than it was in years gone by, and places where I think events and teams can really start to have a good impact.
“Now I want to try and develop that, but I don’t want to lose the wonderful landmarks and the heritage that we have in our sport. Cycling will always have those heritage events, those Monuments of our sport, and I want to make sure that we develop our sport around those.
“But equally we have to make sure that we have a very strong financial situation for our teams, for our riders, and for our events, and I think we’ve got to look at new ways of doing that.
“I think we’ve fallen behind other sports in the way that we exploit new technology in television, the way we present our sport, and I think that’s a way we can help strengthen the economy of our sport.”
He concludes his message by looking towards what 2014 has in store for the sport: “Well, I think we’ve got so many priorities it’s hard to pick one out, but developing women’s cycling is certainly one, making sure that we restore the credibility of our sport and repair the reputational damage is probably the biggest one and that is something that we really need to work hard on.
“I think we’ve made great progress and I’m sure we can make more progress because we have got a beautiful sport, the most beautiful sport in my opinion and that of many others, and as I’ve said before, in all its diversity, in all its wonderfulness, it’s a truly global sport and if we get things right I think we can make cycling the most popular sport on the planet.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.