Brian Cookson, the English challenger to Irishman Pat McQuaid for the presidency of the Union Cycliste Internationale, has pledged to not take for granted Australia’s support for him in next month’s election.
Cycling Australia announced on Monday that it will vote for Cookson, rather than the incumbent, McQuaid in the election that will be held during the world road championships in Florence, Italy late next month.
CA’s position was decided on Sunday after the CA board heard an address from Cookson in person in Sydney on Saturday morning, then held a teleconference with McQuaid in the afternoon.
The vote in favour of Cookson was unanimous, CA president Klaus Mueller told Fairfax Media on Monday. Ten out of 11 board members had attended the meeting, which extended into Sunday.
Mueller, who announced on Saturday that he would stand down as CA president at the end of September, said it was also likely that Oceania’s collective position would be the same.
The UCI presidency will be voted on by the UCI Congress. Of 42 votes, Oceania’s three go to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
“We are supporting Cookson. It was unanimous with all [CA] board members present,” Mueller said.
Cookson, who arrived in Sydney on Friday, is on a world tour to garner support for his candidacy, in an election fight that has seen McQuaid remain defiant in his efforts to be re-elected despite growing calls for him to step aside following the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
In a tight vote, the support of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji could be critical for Cookson, British Cycling president, or McQuaid, who no longer has the nomination of Ireland or Switzerland, but is still seeking nomination of the Moroccan and Thai federations through his membership with them.
“I’m really pleased about it, very happy. And I’m hopeful I’ll get the three votes,” Cookson told Fairfax Media on Monday after learning of CA’s position and the likely backing from New Zealand and Fiji.
“It’s been a worthwhile visit and I’m very happy to have been here and looking forward to being able to deliver the things we have been talking about [in his campaign manifesto].
“Oceania has three votes out of the 42 – all those 42 are important. I wouldn’t dream of taking any of them for granted. That’s why I have come here.
“I think it’s important to get around the world and speak to as many people as you can. I am grateful the Oceania delegates and Cycling Australia wanted me to come and were happy to meet with me.
“I made a similar offer to the Asian confederation, for instance, and their president said they didn’t want me to attend, [that] they had already made their mind up and were going to vote for Pat McQuaid.
“I said, ‘Fine, that’s your choice and I respect that, but I really would still like to keep that open and let me know if and when you change your mind. Maybe we will talk in Florence.’ I think that will happen.”
Mueller said there were two key points in Cookson’s address on Saturday that convinced the CA board he was better suited to be UCI president than McQuaid, who has held the post since 2006.
“We felt [Cookson] was in a better position to restore the reputation and integrity of the UCI and the sport internationally,” Mueller said.
“Also he agreed he would do everything in his power to improve the governance structures, to make those more accountable and efficient and reflect what a modern sporting body should look like.”
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