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Resounding victory for British Cycling president in battle for UCI top job

British Cycling president Brian Cookson will lead the UCI for the next four years following a UCI Congress at Florence's Palazzo Vecchio replete with plot and intrigue the likes of which the historic building has not witnessed since the power struggles of the republican faction and the Medici family at the turn of the 16th Century. He defeated incumbent president by 24 votes to 18, a resounding margin in the light of earlier expectations that the vote would be too close to call.

The events that formed the background to that historical period underpinned Machiavell's Prince, written 500 years ago this year, and today Cookson acted on advice from the Flornetine statesman, who once had an office in this very building, in that work - "It is better to be impetuous than cautious" - as he cut short arguments between delegates regarding the validity or otherwise of McQuaid's nomination and suggested they go straight to a vote on the presidency.

Speaking after his victory, Cookson said: "It is a huge honour to have been elected President of the UCI by my peers and I would like to thank them for the trust they have placed in me today.

"I have said throughout my campaign that we must embrace a new style of governance and a collegiate way of working so that a new era of growth and commercial success for the UCI and our sport can begin.

"My first priorities as President will be to make anti-doping procedures in cycling fully independent, sit together with key stakeholders in the sport and work with WADA to ensure a swift investigation into cycling's doping culture.

"It is by doing these things that we will build a firm platform to restore the reputation of our International Federation with sponsors, broadcasters, funding partners, host cities and the International Olympic Committee.

"Ultimately this is how we grow our sport worldwide and get more riders and fans drawn into cycling."

By acceding to the top spot at the UCI, Cookson will have to step down as president of British Cycling, the organisation he help rescue from the brink of bankruptcy in 1997.

“My election as President of the world cycling federation - the UCI - means that I can no longer continue as President of British Cycling," he went on.

“I am sorry to leave an organisation which I have seen make extraordinary progress over the last 16 years, but I am absolutely thrilled to be given the opportunity to bring about the changes that cycling needs worldwide.

“I know that I am moving on from British Cycling with the organisation in fantastic shape, and I am already looking forward to the challenges ahead as President of the UCI.”

Earlier, delegates had voted 21-21 on whether or not to adopt the controversial proposed change to the UCI Constitution that would have allowed a presidential candidate to be nominated by any two national federations.

That amendment, proposed in July by the Malaysian national federation and intended to be backdated to apply to today's election, would have meant that McQuaid would automatically have been eligible to stand for today's vote; having had nominations from Cycling Ireland and Swiss Cycling withdrawn, he has since been nominated by the Thai and Moroccan federations.

McQuaid insisted that he is a member of both those federations and that his nominations by each were made before the 29 June deadline and comply with the UCI's Constitution - or at least, his interpretation of it, backed up by a legal opinion obtained by the UCI from international law firm Baker & McKenzie.

After hearing a lawyer explain why McQuaid's nomination was believed to be valid, delegates rose to speak for or against it and the issue was due to go to a vote on whether the incumbent president could stand until Cookson made his dramatic intervention and suggested they should go straight to the issue of determining who should be president for the next four years.

It was a gamble, one that paid opff handsomely, and one that Machiavelli, who had in his mind when writing the prince an ideal ruler who could unite an Italy torn apart by factional in-fighting and threats from outside, would have approved of.

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.