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by Shane Stokes
June 20, 2017
Photography by French Cycling Federation
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A week after UCI president Brian Cookson told CyclingTips that he thought it was possible that no other candidates would run against him, Frenchman David Lappartient has announced that he will oppose him in the UCI elections in September.
Lappartient is 44 years of age and is the president of the Professional Cycling Council. He has been part of the UCI for over a decade, being elected to the steering committee on September 28 2005. He was president of the French Cycling Federation between 2009 and 2017, deciding last year not to seek a third term. The reason for that decision may well be linked to his aim to become UCI president.
Last time around, Lappartient encouraged Brian Cookson to run for president. After the Briton’s election in 2013 he became vice-president, and has also been president of the European Cycling Union since the same year.
“At the upcoming September 21st UCI Congress in Bergen, Norway, 45 delegates from five continents will vote to elect a new UCI President and renew members of the Management Committee,” said Lappartient in a statement. “Given the challenges lying ahead for the future President of the UCI and his team, there is a great deal at stake for both our sport and our international federation.
“With my proven track record as a two-term President of the French Cycling Federation (FFC) (2009 –2017), my experience as President of the Union Européenne de Cyclisme since 2013, and with the strong back up of the FFC, I have made the decision to be a candidate to become the next President of the Union Cycliste Internationale and lead a solid reform that will genuinely overcome the various challenges that the organization is facing with.”
He has said that his main goals are:
– Strengthening the authority of the UCI with a President ensuring a real and effective leadership
– Placing UCI at the service of National Federations
– Making cycling a sport of the 21st century
– Developing an ambitious vision for professional cycling
– Ensuring credibility of sporting results and protecting athletes
The fight against technological fraud, or mechanical doping, is something he has listed as a priority.
His candidature has been backed by the French Cycling Federation and its president Michel Callot.
“David Lappartient’s candidacy is backed up by a clear vision and an ambitious project for our international federation,” said Callot in the statement. “I am in total agreement with and endorse his proposition.
“The leadership that he has demonstrated within both the FFC and the UEC gives a clear indication of the future success he will have in leading the UCI. On behalf of the FFC and its governing bodies, I wish David Lappartient the very best in his campaign and look forward to see him upholding the values of cycling that we all hold so dear.”
Although Lappartient has not yet produced a detailed manifesto like Cookson has, he has laid out what he has termed five pillars he considers to be essential for the interests of international cycling.
Mentioned briefly above, he has elaborated on each of the points.
His first is to strengthen the authority of the UCI, something he says is needed for a real and effective leadership role.
“The new President must improve the governance of the federation by boosting its ability to bring about changes and granting a larger role to elected representatives and the Management Committee,” he argues. “My goal will be to make the UCI an international federation that is strong, influential and able to make substantial contribution to the Olympic and Paralympic movement.”
Cookson has been labelled by some as a weak leader, although the Briton has emphasised that he leads by consensus, seeking to build agreements behind the scenes rather than taking a more assertive stance.
Lappartient’s second objective is, he says, to place the UCI at the service of every national federation. “In order to achieve this, the World Cycling Centre will play a key role in implementing a robust cooperative and solidarity programme that is meaningful to the federations,” he says. “It will also be necessary to modernize the format of the World Championships and develop new tools that will effectively meet the needs of its members.”
The third pillar of his bid for presidency is his assertion that the UCI must make cycling a sport of the 21st century.
“This will mean promoting the development of women’s cycling, focusing in particular on its structure in terms of both races and teams,” he says. “We must also encourage any initiatives aimed at making cycling accessible to everyone in society and encouraging participation across all of its disciplines.”
Point four is to develop what he terms an ambitious vision for professional cycling. He says that this will be of critical importance for the new management team. “To sustain such scheme, a clear and credible reform will need to be implemented and will require the “goodwill” and great collaboration among every stakeholder.”
His final objective is to ensure the credibility of sporting results and to protect athletes. The potential use of hidden motors appears to be a big concern, as well as more traditional doping.
“The image that international cycling projects to the rest of the world is a crucial part of its development, which is why it will be essential to monitor the credibility of sporting results across various competitions,” he says. “A genuine action plan aimed at supporting the fight against technological fraud must be introduced as quickly as possible.
“In addition, our engagement towards a zero-tolerance policy against doping will call upon deep analysis and collaboration from both an organisational standpoint in line with IOC recommendations, and from a scientific approach in partnership with WADA.”
Subsections of that fifth goal are to look after athletes’ health and also to tackle any problems caused by the gambling industry. “Because good governance is about protecting and being proactive, athletes’ overall wellbeing will be one of my main preoccupations via the development of an actual physical fitness and aptitude assessment system. Lastly, the danger linked to the changing nature of sports betting must be better understood if we want to ensure that the image and reputation of cycling are not tarnished by any wrongdoing.”
It is not yet clear if other candidates will also stand. Another UCI member, Belgian Cycling federation president Tom Van Damme, had previously said he was considering running. He has not yet declared if he will indeed mount his own challenge or not.
Cookson has emphasised the need to stability and for time to continue the work he has done. Lappartient argues that it is time for something different. “Over the past few months, I have become aware of the significant desire and need for change in governance expressed by national federations,” he said. “This project that I am proposing displays a real ambition for cycling.”
Once his manifesto is published there will be a clearer view of what he is proposing and how he will achieve it.
Lappartient has said that he will hold a press conference in Dusseldorf the day before the start of the Tour de France; more details will likely emerge then. By that point in time it should also be more clear if there will be more challengers, or if the election will be between these two candidates.