McQuaid facing uphill battle in bid for third term
Published 17/06/2013 | 05:00
Pat McQuaid suffered a blow in his campaign to be allowed stand for a third term as head of cycling's world governing body at the weekend when domestic cycling clubs voted against nominating him as a candidate in the forthcoming UCI presidential elections.
After an original decision to back McQuaid by Cycling Ireland's board members in April was deemed invalid due to a breach of federation rules, the Irish governing body bowed to pressure from domestic clubs to allow them vote on the decision at Saturday's EGM at the Red Cow Hotel in Dublin.
A total of 188 delegates from 60 Irish cycling clubs turned up and, after an hour-long debate, 91 voted against the nomination and 74 voted for McQuaid.
His nomination has been a contentious issue within the small domestic cycling scene, with heated exchanges and serious arguments taking place between clubs, officials, friends and even families on both sides of the divide.
Although the No campaigners were happy with the result, the mood was a sombre one in the room afterwards as both sides of the debate shook hands and insisted there should be no hard feelings.
"It took us years to heal all the divisions in Irish cycling and I'd be afraid that this could polarise people again," said a disappointed Tadhg Moriarty.
As chairman of the Listowel club, race director of the Kerry Group Ras Mumhan and other races, Moriarty, in the sport almost 50 years, has been around long enough to notice the sea change in Irish cycling.
"Everybody in this room brought cycling in Ireland to where it is today, young or old," he said. "Some of us are around longer than others. There was a time that I knew everybody in Irish cycling. I must say I knew fewer than half the people here today.
"I knew very few of the people that voted against McQuaid. I knew all of the people that voted for McQuaid, so there must be a message there somewhere. Maybe the older brigade are after getting a small push here today and it's time to let the younger ones take over."
Former Cycling Ireland vice-president Anthony Moran, who resigned his position on the board after he was the only one to vote against McQuaid at the original nomination meeting, was happy with the result but even happier that most friendships with people on the opposite side of the debate seemed to have come out of the room unscathed.
"I'd say there are a few people who see me as a traitor," he said. "Some of my friends are pro-McQuaid and I know they're not happy with me, but hopefully in time that'll change.
"I've already had people who had very heated exchanges with me earlier in the year come up and shake hands afterwards and we're all back talking again and that's what's important. I don't think this is going to be a huge issue here.
"On an international level, it's extremely important, but at a local level we have other issues, like the police trying to stop us running races in north County Dublin. These are real issues that affect most grassroots cyclists and they are the things Cycling Ireland has to address now."
Although Moran had been to the forefront of the anti-McQuaid campaign, he seemed surprised and relieved to have won.
"I noticed there were a lot of pro-McQuaid speakers and they seemed to be motivating the crowd and seemed to be clapping the most. All along, I thought it was going to be roughly 50-50.
"We had been keeping a tally as to how the clubs were going and had an inkling that we might just scrape it but what came into play was that a lot of the commissions and the official bodies of Cycling Ireland had two votes – a club vote and their own vote – so that swelled up their vote and I thought it was going the other way."
Having voted for McQuaid as president of Cycling Ireland, Rory Wyley was also philosophical in defeat. "We always knew – and I'm speaking for the board, who were in favour of the motion – that the anti-McQuaids were the favourites in betting terms.
"I knew over the past week or two the gap was closing. From my point of view, it didn't close enough. I would have obviously preferred if the motion was carried and became a resolution of the company but most delegates were mandated by the clubs prior to the meeting, so there wasn't a huge amount of debate.
"I asked at the start that the discussion take place in a civil and courteous manner and it did. As a national federation, who the president of the UCI is doesn't impact us hugely, directly. We've more important things to do.
"Over in St Anne's Park today there's a Sprocket Rocket family day as part of National Bike Week. The sun will set this evening and we'll get up in the morning – I hope, anyway," said the Dungarvan man. "Life goes on."
While McQuaid has now lost the support of his home nation, there is much confusion about a possible nomination by Swiss Cycling. McQuaid has lived there, near the headquarters of the UCI, since 2005 and although he insists he has been nominated by the Swiss, three members of Swiss Cycling are contesting that through a legal challenge.
"There was a certain degree of apathy out there because of what the Swiss have done," said Moran. "Nobody really knows what they have done exactly, but that took the wind out of our sails a bit and there would have been a lot more clubs represented had this been his only nomination.
"We believe the Swiss haven't nominated him. We also believe that what they should have done is waited until Cycling Ireland had their EGM and then did whatever they wanted to do. The Swiss will nominate him, though. They'll nominate him tomorrow or the next day. There's no doubt about that in my mind. He will go on and contest the presidential election in September."
If the Swiss legal challenge does fizzle out and McQuaid runs in the next UCI presidential election, he will be up against the head of British Cycling, Brian Cookson, who last week announced that his home federation had nominated him.