Pat McQuaid’s plea for UCI re-election: “I can fairly easily reunify cycling”

A week before crucial vote in Florence, UCI president says he needs 4 more years to finish job

Pat McQuaid claims he can “fairly easily reunify cycling” should he be re-elected UCI President in a vote next week - but says he needs another four years to complete the “cultural change” he insists has begun under his reign.

The Irishman, UCI president since 2005, has fought a bitter campaign against his rival, British Cycling’s Brian Cookson, who he’ll face head to head in the vote in Florence on Friday.

Nonetheless he appeared to be confident in conversation with the Telegraph.

"If I get re-elected I know I can reunify cycling fairly easily," McQuaid said.

"At the same time, it's all put down to an electoral campaign and those who did involve themselves in trying to undermine every step I made will accept that the congress has made a decision and that therefore the sport moves on.

"Brian [Cookson] says change means change from the past, in other words from McQuaid and [Hein] Verbruggen [McQuaid's predecessor, and now UCI honorary president] and change from all the baggage that McQuaid and Verbruggen have.

"I have learned from that and from any mistakes I've made in relation to that. But I do feel that I need another four years to complete the cultural change of doping."

McQuaid said that he received hearty support when he represented cycling at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) congress in Buenos Aires earlier this month.

McQuaid, who has claimed that Olympic cycling would suffer should he lose the UCI Presidency, said: "I found it quite heartening; I got a lot of support from my IOC colleagues.

"A large number of them came up to me and knew what was going on.

"Because they're experienced in sports politics they could see what was happening in the background and they could read between the lines in what they read.

"They could see what was going on and they told me that and they wished me the best of luck and told me to keep fighting and to stay with it.

"Every one of them told me that they hoped I would endure and be re-elected."

It was not an unqualified success at the IOC congress however, with the UCI’s hopes dashed that an additional three events might be added, including men’s and women’s points races.

That means that the track programme will remain unchanged from London 2012 – men and women will each have five events, the individual and team sprints, the keirin, Omnium, and team pursuit.

As last year, there will also be two events on the road for both men and women, the road race and individual time trial, as well as one event for each gender on BMX and cross-country mountain biking.

Ahead of the IOC congress, McQuaid said: "I think it will be very important that the UCI is in there, with its influence in ensuring cycling gets its just rewards and is not in anyway disadvantaged. That would be the case if we didn't have an IOC member."

He added: “Brian has no influence within the IOC and no one within the cycling family is going to be fooled into thinking otherwise.”

Brian Cookson too believes he has the necessary votes to win the presidency of the UCI, and says some of the allegations about him laid by incumbent president Pat McQuaid are “just bonkers”.

“I’m confident that I will get a vote that is at least in the high 20s,” Cookson said in a press conference earlier this week.

“I’m confident but it’s not guaranteed. Elections can be won and lost in the last few days and it’s very important that we don’t take any of that for granted.”

Cookson needs 22 votes to win the presidency. There are 42 delegates to the UCI Congress, representing the continental confederations that make up the UCI’s structure.

However, the ballot is secret, so even though some confederations and delegates have publicly pledged support for Cookson, there is no certainty that they won’t revert to the devil they know when they cast their votes in Florence on September 27.

Two voting blocs, Europe and Oceania, have pledged full support for Cookson, so he believes he has their 17 votes in the bag. Asia’s nine delegates are believed to be solidly behind incumbent president Pat McQuaid whose tenure has been characterised by substantial work to develop cycling in the region.

Cookson believes he has secured support from some African and American delegates, though. Africa and South America have also benefitted from McQuaid’s globalisation efforts, but North America is expected to back Cookson.

There is still controversy over whether McQuaid has a valid nomination at all for the election.

His candidacy having been rejected by the members of Cycling Ireland and later by Swiss Cycling, McQuaid claims that he has a valid nomination from both the Thai and Moroccan national federations.

Even if those purported nominations are found to be outside the UCI constitution as it currently stands, they could still help McQuaid stand for re-election if a rule change proposed by the Malaysian federation, which would allow a candidate to be nominated by any two national governing bodies and which – most controversially - would be applied retroactively.

That proposed change to the UCI constitution is also due to be voted upon at the congress next Friday.

Simon has been news editor at 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.

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