What you need to know about the UCI election (part one)

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

Jump To Comments

It seems like there’s a new development in the UCI presidency story every day now, and with the vote less than a month away we’ve put together a series of articles to help you make sense of the election, the candidates and the controversy. In this first part, we bring you up to speed and explain the nomination and voting process.

As you’d no doubt be aware, Irishman Pat McQuaid is the current president of cycling’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). He has served two four-year terms since 2005 when he took over the reins from Dutchman Hein Verbruggen.

It’s long been assumed that Verbruggen has influenced McQuaid from his controversial position as “Honorary President” ever since the change of leadership in 2005 but it would appear that the Dutchman has distanced himself from the UCI in recent months.

McQuaid was re-elected unopposed in 2009 but faces a much greater challenge in his quest for a third term.

How the voting works

At the end of a president’s four-year term, the UCI Congress — an annual meeting of delegates from the UCI’s member nations — votes for a new president and a nine-member executive committee.

While hundreds of delegates can attend the UCI Congress — each of the UCI’s 178 national federations can send up to three delegates — only 42 get to vote. These 42 delegates are spread among the continental confederations as follows:

  • Africa: 7 delegates
  • America: 9 delegates
  • Asia: 9 delegates
  • Europe: 14 delegates
  • Oceania: 3 delegates

The voting is done by secret ballot — meaning all delegates from a particular confederation needn’t vote as one block — and the winner is the presidential candidate that gets the absolute majority of votes.


In order to be considered for the UCI presidency a candidate must, according to Article 51 of the UCI Constitution, be “nominated by the federation of the candidate”. These nominations must be “deposited at the registered office of the UCI ninety days prior to the date of the Congress.”

So with the UCI Congress set to meet on September 27, nominations for this year’s election were due on June 27. This is important for reasons that will become clear in a moment.

Brian Cookson has been nominated by British Cycling and will challenge the incumbent McQuaid. The issue of Irishman McQuaid’s nomination, however, is far more complicated and requires some explanation.

The McQuaid mess

Back in April this year the Irish cycling federation voted to nominate McQuaid for a third term at the presidency. But when the vote was overturned due to a technicality an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) was called for June 15.

In that meeting, Cycling Ireland members voted not to nominate McQuaid for a third term as UCI president, putting McQuaid’s candidacy in jeopardy.

In the lead up to the Cycling Ireland EGM McQuaid, a resident of Switzerland, joined the Swiss federation and seemingly secured a presidential nomination from the Swiss cycling federation. But just last week it was revealed that the Swiss federation had reversed its decision to support McQuaid, again leaving the Irishman without a nomination.

Here’s where things get a little more complex.

Back in July, when McQuaid seemingly had the support of the Swiss federation, the Moroccan and Thai cycling federations both announced that McQuaid was a member of their federations and that they’d both be nominating him for the UCI presidency as well. Why McQuaid needed three nominations isn’t clear, although some have speculated that he was worried the Swiss nomination would fall over.

The announcements from the Moroccan and Thai federations came on the same day that the Malaysian federation proposed an extraordinary amendment to Article 51 of the UCI constitution which would change the way a potential UCI president could be nominated. Under the amendment, a candidate wouldn’t need to be nominated by their home federation — they only needed to be nominated by any two national federations.

This amendment will theoretically be voted on at the UCI Congress in September and if it’s passed, the changes will come into effect immediately — that is, validating the Thai and Moroccan nominations and thereby making McQuaid eligible for the presidency vote later in that very same meeting.

With nominations for the presidency due on June 27 — 90 days before the election — McQuaid’s nominations by the Thai and Moroccan federations came two days too late. Luckily for McQuaid, the amendment proposed by the Malaysian federation also included the suggestion that the deadline for nominations be extended until August 30.

These developments weren’t a good look for McQuaid, and they were only made worse when it was revealed that two UCI staff members were involved in drafting the clause in the amendment related to the August 30 deadline — a clause that ensured McQuaid’s nominations didn’t come in too late after all.

While this news doesn’t paint McQuaid in a particularly positive light, it mightn’t be as sinister a move as first thought. As a UCI spokesperson told insidethegames.biz, the addition of the clause about the August 30 deadline was to ensure that nominations for the presidency couldn’t be made at the UCI Congress meeting, just minutes before the presidency vote itself.

In one sense, it can be argued that the amendments to the constitution are even a good idea — it makes sense for the UCI president to have support from multiple federations that aren’t from his or her home nation. Unfortunately, the amendment has been tarnished due to its timing and implications in the presidency race.

Controversy aside, it would seem there’s little chance of the amendment being passed at the UCI Congress in September anyway.

For one thing, the UCI Congress’s agenda is set by the UCI Management Committee which, according to The Inner Ring, hasn’t approved the addition of the amendment to the September 27 agenda.

Furthermore, changes to the UCI constitution require a two-thirds majority to be passed and with most of the 14 European members appearing likely to vote in Cookson’s favour (that is, against the amendment) it seems the amendment is doomed to fail, if it’s even put up for discussion at all.

If that’s the case, McQuaid won’t have a nomination and will be ineligible to contest the election.

Despite all this, McQuaid remains defiant saying “I’m standing as a candidate for re-election. That will not change.”

The vote

So, on September 27, to coincide with the UCI Road Cycling Championships in Tuscany, the UCI Congress will meet and vote to decide who becomes the next president of cycling’s governing body.

With new developments almost every day it’s likely that the situation will be different by the time the vote rolls around, but it’s looking less and less likely that Pat McQuaid will be eligible to contest the election. If that’s the case then Brian Cookson will step into the role.

But if somehow McQuaid is able to run for the presidency he’ll need 22 votes to secure a third term in office. It’s hard to know exactly who will vote in which direction but we can make some educated guesses.

It seems likely that the vast majority of the Asian (nine) and African (six) delegates will vote for McQuaid, given the strides he’s taken in promoting and developing the sport on those continents. If so, that leaves McQuaid needing seven votes from the remaining three continents.

As discussed above, the feeling is that most if not all of Europe’s 14 delegates will vote for Cookson. Just this week Cycling Australia confirmed that it would support Cookson and the suggestion from outgoing Cycling Australia president Klaus Mueller is that New Zealand and Fiji, Oceania’s other two voting members, will do the same. Which leaves the Americas.

Recent announcements from USA Cycling suggest a US delegate will vote for Cookson meaning McQuaid would need seven of the remaining eight American delegates to vote his way, if he was to be elected for a third term as president.

As mentioned, these are just educated guesses and we won’t really know until the vote takes place next month. If indeed there is a vote.

In part 2 of this series we assume that Pat McQuaid will be able to contest the election and consider the two candidates, what they’re promising and what sort of reputation they each have. Click here to read part 2.

CyclingTips would like to thank @raceradio for his assistance in preparing this article.

Editors' Picks