Cyclist in Chief Brian Cookson, OBE President, Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)

It was an honor to catch up with the Chief himself on the sidelines of the 37th Asian Track Cycling Championship in New Delhi. His calm, affable and humble persona impressed all without exception. A man with over four decades of experience as a rider, official and as administrator and now at the helm of the world governing body of the sport, Cookson has a clear roadmap for the sport globally and especially for Asia which he finds very promising.

Our Managing Editor Vikram Limsay had an engaging chat with him in Delhi on wide ranging aspects such as future of sport in India, the effort that CFI is putting in and his mission critical objectives. We bring you excerpts from the interaction.

CRANK: About UCI Its vision & objectives? Your plans especially in the context of an emerging Asian interest.

Asia is a key region for the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) with important perspectives of development for cycling. We have recently signed a landmark agreement with China’s Wanda Sports. This partnership includes a UCI WorldTour stage race, the Great Tour of Guangxi, which will run along a new women’s elite race. In addition to other events, China will host a cycling centre that will serve as satellite to the UCI World Cycling Centre in Aigle, Switzerland. Asia is still at the forefront for hosting major UCI events such as the Track Cycling World Championships, organised by Hong Kong in April. Asia shows also a strong interest for off-road disciplines, like BMX, and all this excitement around our sport is supported by our three satellite centres in Japan, South Korea and since 2015, India, with its facility in New Delhi.

CRANK: About the World Cycling Center in India? The philosophy, the plans for the future

With the creation of this wonderful center, we are providing a huge boost for the growth and development of cycling in India and South Asia, ranging from talent identification to elite level coaching. The goals of the satellite include the establishment of a world-class team in time for the 2019 UCI Track Cycling World Championships and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic games.

CRANK: About the Asian Track championship? Your vision and vies participating countries, coaches, organizing, support etc.

The Asian Track championship currently underway is a necessary step if India wants to establish itself as a regional super power around top cyclist like Deborah Herold. Regional events are the next level before the global stage of the World Championships and the Olympic Games. Indian riders need to win medals at the upcoming Asian Games and Championships to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. A qualification for the Olympics would make history for the country, which hasn’t seen any of its cyclists participating to the event for more than half a century.

CRANK: About CFI? Your comments on their activities and efforts as developing the sport

Cycling Federation of India (CFI) has been a driving force in the recent developments of our sport in the region. Together with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the CFI and the UCI WCC, our plans for the future are to see cycling making its presence felt among the most popular and successful sports in India and within the region.

CRANK: About India? Any possibilities of hosting world champion ship events?

Looking at the organizing prowess of India as seen this time and also in the past I see no reason why India can not host one of our world championship events. I am in talk with the secretary general Mr Onkar Singh and am certainly hopeful of working this out soon

CRANK: How does UCI view the future of Bicycling as a sport in India?

It amazing what an upside cycling as a sport has in a country of a billion plus. But infrastructure has to come up which I am told is a priority of the government and more importantly the culture of cycling has to catch up amongst general public. As I like to point out, you cannot always run to office and surely you cant swim to office but you can surely cycle to office. And that too daily! So when the culture of cycling catches up sports and medals cannot be far behind

CRANK: How do you like it in India? Have you biked around? 

Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to see much about this marvelous country but I enjoyed two days of great racing at the velodrome and had very interesting and useful meetings with the President of CFI Mr. Parminder Singh Dhindhsa and Secretary General CFI Mr. Onkar Singh along with top representatives from the Sports Authority of India, the Indian Olympic Association, and the Minister of Youth Affairs & Sports. I’ve met very committed people and together we’re laying the foundation for further development of cycling in India.

Presidential Profile

Brian Cookson was elected President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in 2013 . His campaign manifesto was to restore trust and lead change at the UCI.

Cycling has touched Brian’s life, both as a rider and administrator for four decades.  His cycling experience spans senior level positions within local, national and international cycling.

As a teenager in early seventies he became a regional road champion.  After competitive racing he then switched focus to organizing and officiating and was elected President of British Cycling in 1996, a position he held unopposed until his election as UCI President.  Brian is credited with a spectacular sporting and commercial turn around of British Cycling during his tenure of 15 years.

Since 1986 Brian has had a commendable experience in officiating global events. He was a UCI International Commissaire at the 1992 Olympics and multiple World Championships and international stage races.  In 2009 he became a member of the UCI Management Committee, was President of the UCI Road Commission as well as the
Cyclo-Cross Commission.

Since becoming UCI President, Brian is focused on delivering his manifesto pledges to rebuild trust in the UCI, transform the way anti-doping is dealt with, grow the sport globally, develop women’s cycling, overhaul elite road cycling and strengthen cycling’s credibility and influence within the Olympic Movement.

Brian’s professional career outside of cycling includes over 30 years’ experience of senior level management in the public sector, specifically as a specialist in urban renewal and design.

Born in Preston, Lancashire in 1951 and married with three children, Brian still cycles regularly on road, track and MTB.

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