Cookson looks set for UCI post despite bid to torpedo his speech
Britain's Brian Cookson appears to be in the lead in the race for the presidency of the International Cycling Union (UCI) despite what his supporters are claiming is an attempt to torpedo his final speech on Friday.
Cookson, the head of British Cycling, is standing against the incumbent president Pat McQuaid, from Ireland, and now looks to have turned the tables on his rival and is the favourite to win.
The campaign has been a long and bitter one however - and that bitterness is set to go right to the very end with Cookson's camp furious at an attempt to stop him using PowerPoint presentation and slides in his speech to the UCI Congress delegates in Florence, whose votes will determine the outcome of the election.
A memo from UCI general director Christophe Hubschmid, a close ally of McQuaid's, was sent to all management committee members on Thursday saying that the presidential candidates would not be allowed any backdrop to their speeches.
The memo, a copy of which has been seen by Press Association Sport, states: "With regard to the presidential election process and as indicated in the electoral process, each candidate will have the opportunity to make a 10-minute speech to the Congress.
"The running order will be determined by random draw. No 'backdrop' may be used by candidates during their speech. During each candidate's speech, his name will be displayed on the big screen."
Cookson used PowerPoint and slides to great effect in his presentation to the European members in Zurich earlier this month, when he won a crushing victory over the pugnacious McQuaid, who just made a speech without any backdrop, which overran to the extent that he was twice warned.
One committee member told Press Association Sport: "The feeling is that McQuaid is now running scared and very worried that Cookson is in the lead. This last-minute attempt to ban any backdrop seems absurd."
There are 42 votes to be cast and Cookson is confident of getting in the high 20s - he should get 14 just from Europe if their members stick to the mandate, plus he has support from the Americas and Australia.
McQuaid's powerbase is in Africa and Asia, but first he has to persuade the Congress that he can be nominated by other federations - in his case Thailand and Morocco - after Ireland and Switzerland, where he lives, refused to do so.
McQuaid himself admitted it could be close.
He told Press Association Sport: "I would still be confident that I will be re-elected. I think it could be a close-run thing, but I would be confident I would win out in the end.
"The support I'm getting is from the five continents, because I've worked to globalise the sport since I became president, I've got relationships around the five continents.
"At the end of the day there are many, many federations who are supporting me and many presidents who have written to me, telling me to stick with it, knowing I've been under a lot of pressure and not to consider resigning."
McQuaid insists he has tackled the issue of doping, and taken the sport across the world during his eight years in office.
His detractors however are unhappy at his record in dealing with doping, including a vitriolic fall-out with the World Anti-Doping Agency over the UCI's handling of the Lance Armstrong scandal.
Cookson insists cycling now has a chance to choose a different path.
He said: "There is a massive appetite for change, there is no doubt about that."
Asked about his view of McQuaid staying in power, he added: "I think it would be fairly disastrous because the disputes and schisms in the sport would continue to grow.
"My style is not about confrontation. My style is about consensus building, partnership building and involving all of the stakeholders in a way that is appropriate and assertive and strong, not confrontational, aggressive and argumentative and that I think has been part of the root of the problem frankly."