Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond is backing Brian Cookson’s bid for the UCI presidency. The news coincides with the revelation that the current president of world cycling’s governing body, Pat McQuaid, has written to the presidents of all member national federations to say why they should not vote for Cookson and instead elect him for a third term.
With the UCI presidential election now less than four weeks away, both men are continuing to campaign ahead of the vote to be held in Florence on 27 September, with McQuaid accusing Cookson, of wanting “a coronation not an election” after raising serious doubts over the validity of the incumbent president’s nomination.
Cookson, who has been criss-crossing the globe in an attempt to secure as many of the 42 votes that will cast in the secret ballot as he can, has also had his candidacy endorsed by Jean Pitallier, honorary president of the French national federation, the FFC.
Speaking at Eurobike, LeMond said: “I have met and spent some time discussing with Brian about where cycling lost its way, how it lost its way, and what to do to bring the sport back to where it is not only a sport that leads by example, but a sport that inspires people once again.
“I feel confident after meeting Brian that his interest is to bring honest and transparent leadership to a sport that so desperately needs it. My hope is Brian will be the one to bring all interested parties together to once and for all do what needed to be done years before, find solutions, both short term and long term, and to make it a priority that cycling comes first.
“The choice between Pat McQuaid and Brian Cookson is, I believe a clear one: only Brian can deliver the change cycling needs.”
LeMond himself was touted as a possible candidate for the UCU presidency following the Change Cycling Now summit in London last December.
The pressure group was set up in the wake of the publication of reasoned decision in the Lance Armstrong case by the United States Anti-Doping Agency USADA) by Jaimie Fuller, chairman of the compression clothing firm Skins, an outspoken critic of McQuaid’s leadership of the UCI.
In the letter sent to heads of the 175 national federations that belong to the UCI and from which the 42 voting delegates at the UCI Congress will be drawn, McQuaid takes direct aim at Fuller, accusing the Australian of pulling the strings on Cookson’s behalf.
Fuller, like McQuaid a resident of Switzerland, was among the parties that launched a legal challenge to the Irishman’s nomination by Swiss Cycling, withdrawn last month on the eve of an arbitration hearing scheduled to determine the issue.
The membership of Cycling Ireland had previously rejected nominating McQuaid for a third term, and he is now relying on nominations from the Thai and Moroccan federations, both of which he claims to be a member of.
McQuaid insists those nominations were both made ahead of the deadline of 29 June and that they are in line with the UCI constitution, a point he has been challenged on by Cookson and others.
Those nominations did not become public knowledge until almost a month after the deadline, and were revealed by the UCI in a press release that outlined a change to the UCI constitution proposed by the Malaysian national governing body with the support of the Asian confederation, which is openly supporting McQuaid.
The proposed amendment, to be voted on in Florence, would mean that a candidate for the UCI presidency could be nominated by any two national federations and, controversially, as framed it would apply retroactively.
That has led to McQuaid being accused of seeking to manipulate the election and subvert the democratic process. British Cycling has launched a legal challenge.
McQuaid’s letter, in which he insists he is operating within the electoral rules laid down in the UCI constitution, has been obtained by the website Inside The Games, and reads:
I am sure that you have read and observed the many media reports concerning the UCI elections... particularly the stories which relate to the election of the UCI President.
These news reports have left many within the cycling family questioning what is truly happening where I stand.
I would like to clarify my own position and, more importantly, to assure you that I will be standing for election for the position of UCI President, despite what you might be reading or hearing.
Events of recent weeks have left me seriously questioning whether Brian and his campaign supporters are trying to avoid an election by putting all their efforts into eliminating me from the race and so refusing Congress a choice between two candidates.
This was particuarly [sic] evident this week when Swiss Cycling, who had nominated me last May, made a last minute decision to withdraw my nomination following a legal challenge to that nomination which was orchestrated and bank-rolled by Australian businessman Jamie Fuller.
Mr. Fuller, who is the chairman of a global sportswear company, founded the Change Cycling Now pressure group and has a vested interest in the outcome of the election. He has publicly declared his support for Brian Cookson and his campaign.
Swiss Cycling's last-minute decision came in the face of mounting pressure from Mr. Fuller and his company whose actions threatened to condemn the Swiss Cycling Federation to financial ruin had it proceeded to an abritation [sic] hearing and lost.
Mr. Fuller was also a prime mover in a sustained campaign to ensure that Cycling Ireland did not maintain my nomination. I do not need to recount all of the events which occured from the time that the board of Cycling Ireland voted to support by nomination.
Mr. Fuller has made a number of statements to trumpet his success. The first even came almost a full day before Swiss Cycling offfically [sic] announced its decision. He was quoted in one interview as saying:
"You will find tomorrow that Cookson's phone will be ringing off the hook with people telling him: we really want to support you".
Commenting on the decision by Swiss Cycling he also said: 'Just remember, you not only have to drive the stake through the heart but cut off the head too".
To me this was a clear reference to his success in ensuring that Cycling Ireland, in the first instance, withdrew my nomination and that Swiss Cycling did likewise.
For his part, Brian Cookson is threatening an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if the election does not go his way and Congress vote to elect me as President.
"When the question of a possible appeal to CASwas put to him in a recent interview he stated: 'I think we at British Cycling have expended enough on lawyers for the time being but I wouldn't rule anything in or out.'
It is clear that Brian's [sic] wants a coronation and not and election. I am frankly astonished that he is already showing such disrespect for Congress and its right to chose and elect its President. There are others also who are motivated to ensure I do not stand for election and will stop at nothing to achieve their objectives.
I have respected and adhered to the UCI rules at all times while my opponent and his supporters have been content to mire the election in legal cases and legal argument in an attempt to discredit me and to overthrow me.
However I wish to assure those who support me that I will continue to defend my right to be a candidate, under the rules. I have worked very hard for our sport this past eight years as UCI President to bring the sport of cycling to new countries around the world so that they too can come to experience all that we love about the sport, and to combat doping.
My mission now is to complete my strategy to globalise cycling and to ensure that we continue to have a clean sport where riders can race and win clean and where they are never faced with having to make the same choices as past generations. We must never stop moving towards cycling's bright future.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.