Feature: Brian Cookson on his bid for the UCI's top job

He may well be the next president of the International Cycling Union, but Brit Brian Cookson doesn't enjoy the highest of profiles, and at least to many in Australia, remains a mysterious figure. In town to shore up regional support for his campaign for the sport's top job, Cookson took the time to sit down with Cycling Central and talk about why he believes he's best man to fix cycling's current woes.

We need an independent anti-doping organisation. We've gone say way with the current structure, and the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (ADF). But we need something that's genuinely independent.

It speaks volumes of Brian Cookson's passion for cycling, that amongst a whirlwind tour of Australia to meet some of the region's major power brokers, he's still made time for a bit of riding. Over the next two weeks, he'll be in and out of appointments on three continents as he rallies support for his run at the UCI Presidency, but in that frenetic schedule, he can't ignore the itch for a pedal.

Pulling up on a loaned Cannondale at a cafe in Sydney's northern suburbs, Cookson, looks fresh enough for a 62 year old who's just been hammering up and down the Hawkesbury river's well-trodden "three gorges" ride - a taxing series of ascents than can find out even competitive riders.

"It reminds me a lot of Girona funnily enough," Cookson says as he sits down, hardly breathless, and looking fit as a fiddle for a man that turned 62 in June of this year. "There are some really nice climbs, not too long, or steep, it's very different to what we have in Britain."

Cookson, like his opponent in the presidential race, incumbent McQuaid, has had a long affinity with the sport. He raced at an amateur level in his youth, and has ridden regularly ever since.

Wanting to stay involved in the sport, Cookson focused his attention to administration, and he flourished. In his current role, as the president of British Cycling, he's overseen the most successful period for the sport in the country's history, and since 2009, has sat on the UCI's Management Committee as a representative of Europe.

But sensing the international body had lost its way, and that it was struggling to properly equip itself for the future - too many demons of the past lay undealt with - Cookson made the call to launch a bid for the presidency. And it's this contest, not on the bike where an uphill battle may well favour him against his Irish foe, that he's trying his best to win.



What's transpired in the nearly three months since has been emblematic of everything that's been wrong with the UCI in the last two decades, and has made a mockery of the processes the organisation is supposedly tasked with upholding.

"The UCI has a very poor image worldwide, and there's an even poorer image of the UCI's leadership. We heard that overwhelmingly from the UCI stakeholder process, for me there's a need for change," Cookson said.

"What I can't understand is why the UCI has been so involved in spats with organisations that we should be working with and co-operating with, like WADA, like USADA, like the IOC. We need a leadership that's collegiate and change needs to happen at the top if that is the case.

"I see an organisation that's in a crisis and I want to be able to do something about it."

Keeping with the cycling analogies, Cookson says it's like racing a points race, then an individual pursuit, then a team pursuit. The race is changing all around him and he's been left to adapt.

A lack of overall transparency in the nomination process of Pat McQuaid, serious questions over the abuse of him and his office in drafting favourable constitutional changes, have made the contest increasingly farcical.

Much of Cookson's own campaign has been weighed in technical points over the legitimacy of his opponent even standing, but that's not the way the Brit would have preferred it, more a reaction to the way McQuaid has conducted himself. In fact Cookson has strong views on a variety of policy areas.

He's pro an amnesty taking place, though he regrets it didn't occur when there was more momentum; sees room for reforming the UCI's technical commission, but remains a purist when it comes to bike design; and has different ideas as to how regional development - particularly at the grassroots level should take place.

But above all, Cookson wants to address the organisation's structure, which he believes to have perpetuated the current administration's intransigence on certain issues.

"Governance change is critical. What's going on at the moment just sums that up. If we can't abide by our own rules, by our own election processes, and our own governance, how can we expect our members to take us seriously."

Cookson was recently endorsed over McQuaid my Cycling Australia, with BikeNZ and Oceania likely to follow. Assuming reports of McQuaid's candidacy still going ahead with valid nominations from Thailand and Morocco are accurate, and that there will be an election in Florence, Cookson will require a further 19 delegates to guarantee himself the sport's top job.

Watch the full interview, parts 1 and 2 for an in-depth look at where Cookson stands on a variety of issues, including doping, governance, regional growth, the Olympics, and why he believes he's the best man for the job (above and below).

cycling central-latest /Videos

ADVERTISEMENT

The latest on cycling central

Keep up with Cycling Central

ADVERTISEMENT

On SBS TV & Radio

PROMOTION