European cycling leaders in Zurich formally backed Brian Cookson to lead the UCI on Sunday, after Cookson and current president Pat McQuaid both gave speeches, lobbying for backing.
The European Cycling Union voted in favor of the challenger Cookson, giving him 14 votes in the 42-vote election that will be decided by secret ballot at the UCI Road World Championships in Florence, Italy, on September 27.
“There was a real appetite for change to help restore the credibility of the UCI and I am confident of building on the support of the UEC and federations from around the world,” Cookson said in a statement.
Cookson secured 27 votes, while Pat McQuaid obtained 10. One country, Ireland, abstained, and three were null. Of the 48 national federations affiliated with the UEC, 42 participated, according to the union.
Cookson, the president of British Cycling, and McQuaid, who has run the UCI for the past two terms, have engaged in a bitter fight from the onset to lead cycling as it appears to have emerged from its darkest days. Cookson has painted himself as a breath of fresh air to McQuaid, who is dogged by the way the UCI reportedly handled the Lance Armstrong scandal, offering protections to the Texan.
With the 14 votes, the challenger takes an important step toward the presidency, although the race is far from over. Europe controls 33 percent of the voting power, but the election works similarly to an electoral college: geographic locations vote in mass. McQuaid, for instance, is thought to have control of the Asian delegates, which would award him nine votes, though Cookson is making a push in the region, and in Africa, contesting its seven votes.
“For many outside this room our beautiful sport is associated with ugly things — doping, decisions made behind closed doors, manipulation of the rules and regular conflict,” Cookson said in his speech, as reported by The Telegraph. “This has to stop. The reason I’m running for president is I know I can restore our credibility. I represent a completely clean break from the past.
“If we turn the page, break from the past and restore the UCI’s credibility — we will unlock the tremendous potential of this sport which we all love and have sacrificed so much for.”
There is a key element of this election that’s yet to be established, however, and that’s if McQuaid is a candidate at all. His home federation, Ireland, withdrew its support in what amounted to a no-confidence vote, and the Swiss federation attempted to nominate him, although that became mired in legal mud. There are proposed amendments that the UCI congress must decide on — for example, should McQuaid have a nomination simply because he’s already the president — before the UCI’s current leader can stand for election.
All told, Five regions make up the UCI’s electorate: Oceania, Africa, Asia, America, and Europe. Europe has 14 delegates, or 33 percent of the voting power. Asia and America have nine votes each. Africa has seven and Oceania three.