the times, they are a-changin’ – Cookson gets to work

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Writing about hope again? For the second time in a week? Surely not! It must be the medication…

And yet here we are, barely over two weeks into Brian Cookson’s presidency and the rumblings of change are to be heard across the land.

I know, it’s too early yet to blow the trumpets and to get out the bunting but there have been three developments this week that have reeked of common sense and the bleeding obvious – two things that had been long banned under the presidency of Pat McQuaid.

Rumour has it that both common sense and the bleeding obvious have made their return after being rescued from a remote Swiss farmhouse where they were being held against their will by several of the Irishman’s cronies.

There were found after a dawn raid to be severely undernourished and very pale, though both are recovering in a Geneva hospital.

McQuaid, when interviewed about the case, said “I know nothing”, the most sensible thing he’s said since taking over the UCI captain’s seat in 2005.

So, what’s happened in the past few days that suggests that the winds of change are blowing?

First up is the fantastic news that the women’s Tour of Britain has been granted 2.1 status by the UCI.

This raises the race alongside the Route de France and the women’s version of the Giro and it is I feel hugely important not only in that it means that the women now have one more top event to race in, but it also provides evidence that Cookson’s claim to be ready to support women’s cycling has substance to it.

The organisers of the event, SweetSpot, are obviously thrilled at the news.

The SweetSpot director Guy Elliott said: “We are absolutely delighted that the UCI have awarded us 2.1 status for this exciting new event.”

The elevation to 2.1 means that the world’s top racers will be in attendance, thus allowing the British spectators a chance to see women’s cycling at its best, which can only help to counter the argument that women’s cycling is not as watchable as the men’s.

SweetSpot also announced that the event will have full road closure, accommodation provided and – shocker – prize money. Yes, if you thought that every women’s race has prize money you were mistaken.

How bad is it? I’ve been told that the winner of the women’s version of the Giro walked away with just 450 euros earlier this year, which, after sharing among her teammates must have left her enough for a fast food banquet at best.

The second notice of change was the announcement that Cookson contacted Paul Kimmage, the former pro and journalist who took on Lance Armstrong over doping allegations, to tell him that the UCI would be ending the legal action against him taken up by McQuaid.

The former president claimed that Kimmage had defamed the UCI when he published his opinion on the way the governing body was handling the sport and wanted his pound of flesh, taking on his compatriot over what seemed like a playground grudge when cycling was reeling from the Armstrong case and had no need for more mudslinging.

Cookson has looked at the case and decided that to continue makes no sense whatsoever (probably because Kimmage was right in the first place), and has withdrawn the action.

“I had a call from him, just before he went to Beijing,” Kimmage told VeloNation.

“He told me that they were in the process of issuing a release to the extent that the they are going to drop the case against me.”

So on that score I am sure most would agree, well done Mr Cookson.

Again, it’s little more than common sense and the bleeding obvious, but after what went before we are left in a state where we lavish praise on someone behaving in a civilised and sensible manner.

Perhaps that will prove to be McQuaid’s most lasting legacy: to make otherwise basically competent bureaucrats appear to be saints.

At this rate Cookson will get a bronze statue of his image on a plinth somewhere and a standing alongside the great revolutionary leaders from the ages.

Thirdly, and this is a little more tenuous to link to Cookson’s siege of the Bastille than the first two, there is the news of the dismissal by Belkin of Luis Leon Sanchez for being named in “too many” doping affairs.

“His name crops up in too many files,” said a Belkin spokesman, which could signal the end of the Spaniard’s career.

The team settled with the rider so that it could not be taken to court over the matter, but the fact that the team said that the “confidence between the team and Sanchez has been broken” sets a much overdue precedent that could be taken up by other pro outfits.

Could this have happened under McQuaid? Doesn’t really matter if it could or not, the fact is that it never did. I suspect that Belkin whiffed the smell of change in the air also thanks to Cookson’s ascendency too, and that this played its part.

And so yes, I think these three developments signal the potential for our confidence in the governing body to come out of hibernation.

The times, they might just be a-changin’.

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this article originally appeared on The Roar

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