Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, my cycling friends and I would make the annual pilgrimage to the Clarion Hotel, or the Trusthouse Forte as it was known then, on the outskirts of Dublin Airport, to stake out the stars of Ireland’s only professional bike race, the Nissan International Classic.
Back then, my friends and I tried to avoid being seen by the man in charge, race director Pat McQuaid, for fear of being thrown out of the hotel as we pestered pros such as Greg LeMond, Johan Museeuw, Eric Vanderaerden, and the Irish quartet of Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche, Paul Kimmage, and Martin Earley, for photographs, autographs, bidons, caps, or anything else we could scrounge.
Over two decades later I’m back in the same hotel, on another cycling stakeout. Today though, instead of cycling memorabilia I’m hunting quotes and snippets of information for VeloNews and am probably even less welcome than the young autograph hunter was back then.
McQuaid is here too. He’s still the man in charge, only this time he controls not just one bike race, but all of world cycling, as president of the sport’s governing body, the UCI. As he recently told Irish radio presenter Pat Kenny, the buck stops with him.
But the next hour or so could change all that.
McQuaid walks into the lobby at 7:05pm to be greeted by Cycling Ireland President Rory Wyley, who has briefly stepped out of a board meeting in a nearby suite.
This board meeting will decide whether McQuaid will get the backing of his national federation in his quest for a third consecutive presidency of cycling’s world governing body.
And although the 63-year-old’s career at the top of world cycling hangs in the balance, he looks cheery and confident ahead of the event.
While I continue my stakeout in the lobby, the two shake hands and disappear into the meeting where McQuaid is expected to put forward his case for re-election as governor of the sport to the seven members of the board.
An hour later, the UCI president exits the meeting looking rather more flustered than before. Although he doesn’t hold the same power over me as he did in my youth, I still get the impression that he would like to throw me out of the hotel when I ask him for a few words on how the meeting went.
A stern ‘no’ is followed by what can only be described as a puff of frustration before he disappears around a corner and exits the building.
His exit is soon followed by members of the board, but they are only on a leg-stretching mission.
A former president of the Irish federation himself, McQuaid has just given a half-hour presentation to the board which was followed up by questions from the table and, after a short bathroom break, the members re-enter the room to deliberate his answers during what one board member later termed a ‘robust discussion’ that would ultimately determine whether Cycling Ireland would back him, refuse his proposal for support or put the whole thing to its members by way of an Extraordinary General Meeting.
Almost four hours later, McQuaid returns to face the board, which has decided to ratify his nomination by a majority vote.
“The debate ranged from the whole USADA investigation, to back as far as 2005 when he was first elected president,” said Anthony Moran, the only member of the board willing to speak after the meeting. “We put a number of proposals to Pat and he agreed to them. They ‘re all now on the Cycling Ireland website. We eventually arrived at a decision that we should back him with these caveats, so let’s see how it goes.”
Surprisingly, almost all of the stipulations are based on the length and terms of governance of any incoming UCI president rather than anything to do with anti-doping procedures, length of doping bans, or internal investigations into the UCI’s procedures.
McQuaid is to raise concerns on the following governance issues, which the UCI would consider for tabling at the 2013 UCI Congress. Those issues are:
1. An independent review of the system of internal controls and processes at the UCI, with the findings to be published and the recommendations implemented.
2. Engagement with Stakeholders to re-write the existing Governance Code and the Code of Ethics, as set out in the Constitution of the UCI.
3. The following proposals are to be put forward to UCI Management Committee for tabling at the 2013 Congress at:
a. A limitation on the period for which a president or vice president can serve in the UCI as follows effective after the 2013 Congress:
i. The maximum number of two four-year terms.
ii. No president, vice president or management committee member can serve the UCI for more than 16 years in total over their life time, in any capacity (paid, voluntary or other).
b. That co-opted management committee members are permitted to vote on all matters which management committee members are entitled to vote.
After the meeting, all of the board and McQuaid left the building with no comment.