McQuaid race not over despite Cycling Ireland vote

UCI president has nomination from Swiss Cycling

The changing face of the Irish cycling community was on show at the weekend when Pat McQuaid, the one-time patriarch of the home scene, saw his bid to stay as president of the world governing body dealt a serious, but not fatal, blow by his own.

The Dubliner has been president of the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world governing body of the sport, for 7½ years. His second four-year term is due to come to an end in September and, aged 63 , he wants a third term in office. The board of the Irish governing body, Cycling Ireland, met in April and voted to nominate him to contest the election. However, it later transpired the meeting was not chaired in accordance with association rules.

By the time the board met again, Cycling Ireland had been contacted by a large number of clubs, requesting the matter be put to an egm where the clubs would vote. The board succumbed to that pressure, with the meeting taking place at the Red Cow Inn in west Dublin just off the M50 on Saturday afternoon.

The turnout was small, with just 60 of the 251 clubs eligible to vote showing up. Those clubs present had between two and seven votes each to cast depending on their size; with 74 votes cast in favour of the association nominating the Dubliner and 91 against.


The cycling community has changed hugely in Ireland in the past five to 10 years. While once Cycling Ireland struggled to get 2,000 members, numbers began to creep up in the period when Lance Armstrong was at the height of his powers.

The introduction of the bike to work scheme drove the popularity of cycling further, with over 16,000 now in the federation.

In favour
Most of those new to the sport have joined clubs and Cycling Ireland not to race, but to take part in non-competitive organised endurance events, known as sportives.

On Saturday, most of those who spoke at the egm were the old guard, and they spoke in favour of McQuaid. They pointed out his record from his early days organising the Nissan Classic week-long professional race in Ireland and bringing the Tour de France to Ireland in 1998, up to taking office at the UCI and introducing a range of anti-drugs measures.

PJ Nolan from Navan Road Club in Co Meath was once the president of Cycling Ireland. Representing his club on Saturday he spoke in favour of McQuaid, saying the professional races he had organised had “inspired a lot of people”. He said, while McQuaid could be direct in his manner and this was not to everyone’s liking, he was “a doer, he doesn’t hide behind convention”.

But to match those people from the old-school racing community who have known McQuaid for decades, there were delegates who spoke against him.

Many, though not all, of those were newcomers.

Barry Redmond said while the sport of professional cycling had fought against the drugs problem and made progress, he believed others within the UCI were behind that success.

“It has improved, not because of Pat McQuaid but despite him,” he said of doping.

The drugs issue completely dominated the meeting.

Ironically, when the issue of nominating McQuaid went to a vote, the newcomers who came into the sport on the crest of the Lance Armstrong wave, voted against McQuaid. Judging by their comments earlier, they did so mostly because of concerns around the UCI's record on doping and specifically on Armstrong, who was recently caught by the US Anti Doping Agency.

However, while McQuaid had lost the day, the race to become president is not over by a long way. As a resident of Switzerland, he already had a nomination from Swiss Cycling. And while that nomination is being legally challenged, the Irishman is expected to retain that nomination. He would then contest the election against the only candidate to step forward so far, Brian Cookson.

The Englishman was a club rider in his day, unlike former professional McQuaid, who was one of the best riders Ireland ever produced.

However, Cookson has presided over the transformation of British Cycling from being a small almost bankrupt federation to one that wins a hatful of medals every time an Olympics or World Championships is held.

McQuaid is the ultimate political survivor, a fighter, a high achiever and, above all, a winner. He should retain the Swiss nomination and then try to see off the challenge of Cookson in his bid to secure four more years in office.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times