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UCI president Cookson to examine Beijing organizer’s ‘conflict of interest’

BEIJING (VN) — The Tour of Beijing starts tomorrow, but the future of organizer Global Cycling Promotion (GCP) remains unclear. Speaking at the event, newly elected UCI president Brian Cookson questioned GCP’s function in China and worldwide.

“It’s not only about the elites, it’s got to be about developing at the grassroots as well,” Cookson said to a small group of journalists, including VeloNews. “One of the things I said in my campaign, it’s not just enough to parachute in with a European pro model. You have to develop cycling in those countries in a way that’s appropriate to them a structure of elite cycling that can maximize the benefits for everybody.”

Cookson measured his words speaking beside GCP head Alain Rumpf. Moments earlier, with a bit of unease, the two answered questions from Chinese journalists about the future of the GCP and its Tour of Beijing race.

Former UCI president Pat McQuaid began the organizing arm of the governing body and appointed Rumpf to manage it. In his campaign, Cookson questioned the governing body’s work as a race promoter via GCP.

“The operations and status of the UCI’s GCP unit are unclear even to those within the UCI. I will ensure absolute transparency of its purpose and function and will eliminate GCP’s conflicts of interest with other race promoters,” Cookson wrote in his manifesto. “Its focus should shift to elevating existing and new races around the world. This can be done by providing development capital and expertise in a way that shares the benefits equitably with the independent organizers and national federations.”

Cookson plans to sit down and speak with Rumpf about GCP’s and Beijing’s future. Though its current contract ends with the 2014 edition, he said that he would like to see it continue as a UCI WorldTour event. ” I want the GCP to do more things, but I want to re-focus it a little bit,” Cookson added.

The UCI could ask GCP to help local organizers and national associations run smaller stage races. Rumpf has told VeloNews in the past that India and Brazil are countries of interest.

Cookson believes China should think big and take the reins itself. He challenged the country to find a Tour de France winner within 20 years.

“I’m proud of what I achieved when I was president of British Cycling. When we started 15-16 years ago and we said we are going to make GB the No. 1 ranked nation in cycling, people laughed,” Cookson said. “If they said that in China today, I guess people would laugh as well too. Every journey starts with one step; you have to take it bit by bit.”

Though the GCP’s work came under fire, Rumpf welcomed a new direction. “Apart from the fact that I do think Brian is an excellent president, what can I say?” explained Rumpf with a laugh. “GCP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the UCI and we are here to help the UCI fulfill its strategy.”