After four years of UCI president Brian Cookson, the governing body voted him out in an resounding upset. Frenchman David Lappartient won by a score 37 to 8. The hound dog has had his day. (Andy Hood at Velonews did a fine job of mapping out why he lost.)
There was a huge surge of optimism when Cookson swept of the highly controversial and bombastic Patrick McQuaid. Pro cycling was once again trying to dig itself out of another period of doping, which Lance Armstrong representing evil incarnate.
On a much smaller scale, it felt like When Barack Obama became the first African American US president, deposing the unpopular George Bush. And much like Obama, many people in cycling agreed that Cookson was indeed a good man, honest ethical and transparent.
The problem was, he never got much of anything done. His moves on doping went nowhere, his attempts to work out a better relationship with ASO failed, his glacial pace — promise after promise, study after study — on issues like rider safety was frustrating and unacceptable.
In his place, is the Emmanuel Macron of pro cycling, the young, ambitious and higher-energy Lappartient. He wears a better suit, he strikes a more dynamic pose, he works the front and back of the house with more skill and initiative. In every photo of Cookson, he looked tired and vaguely disappointed. Lappartient is a portrait in the dynamic.
He says he wants to get ahead of motorized doping (an easy win with PR value, in our opinion), a ban on corticoids (duh) and taking on supposedly growing threat from betting (is this really a top priority given all cycling’s problems?)
The primary issue is plain to see for everyone: the Frenchman’s close relationship with A.S.O. With Lappartient as UCI president, will what Cookson called A.S.O’s “quasi-monopoly” turn into a strangle hold? That does not bode well for professional cycling teams demanding more revenue sharing, an idea A.S.O has bitterly fought. Nobody in the sport is making too much money except for A.S.O and perhaps Chris Froome. Teams are barely hanging on and the financial model is broken.
Perhaps Lappartient will pull a rabbit out of a hat but his election would seem to guarantee the status quo on revenue sharing for the next four years. This is a sport where one of the top teams had to go begging for donations from fans on crowdsourcing website indiegogo. The #SaveArgyle campaign worked but it’s hardy a sign of a thriving sport, just a team with good survival instincts.
So, chapeau Lappartient. We’re glad you’re young and energetic — there’s a ton of work to be done.