September 15 - Brian Cookson's campaign to replace Pat McQuaid as President of the International Cycling Union (UCI) received a massive boost here today when Europe pledged its 14 votes to the Briton.
It means that when the election takes place at the UCI Congress in Florence on September 27 Cookson should start with 17 of the 22 votes out of 42 he needs to beat McQuaid.
The head of British Cycling received the overwhelming support of the 42 delegates attending the European Cycling Union (UEC) Exceptional Ordinary General Assembly here.
He polled 27 of the valid votes, compared to his Irish rival's 10.
Ireland abstained, insidethegames understands.
Europe are the second Confederation to give their public support to Cookson.
Oceania, which has three votes, had backed him earlier this month.
"I'm confident but not complacent," said Cookson.
"There are still 10 or 11 days to go and elections can be won and lost in the last few days.
"I will keep talking to people and keep promoting my strategy, my candidature."
The decision to back Cookson was the second blow of the day for McQuaid.
Earlier, the UEC had voted to reject the controversial proposal from the Malaysia National Cycling Federation and Asian Cycling Confederation to change UCI Rule 51.
McQuaid does not currently have a valid nomination after Cycling Ireland and the Swiss Cycling Federation both withdrew their backing having originally supported him.
Morocco and Thailand have both nominated him but that will only be valid if the proposal to change Rule 51 is accepted, changing the statutes so that a candidate can be endorsed by two federations they have no connection too.
The change is due to be decided on before the election for the UCI President in Florence but UEC delegates here voted to reject the proposal by 31 votes to 10.
Yet McQuaid, who has led the UCI since 2005, continued to insist that he will win the election.
"The elections' in two weeks time," he told insidethegames in the wake of this decision.
"I'm confident that I will have a majority from the feedback I've had from delegates and Confederations."
Privately, McQuaid remains confident that some of the 14 delegates mandated here to vote for Cookson will ignore instructions and back him.
"I trust the integrity of my colleagues," said Cookson.
"It's a secret ballot but I'm sure the democratic mandate they've been given and the democratic process will be respected."
The backing for Cookson came after both he and McQuaid delivered 15 minute presentations to the General Assembly, held in a hotel close to Zürich Airport.
The debate was largely civilised - in contrast to some of the campaigning which has gone on in recent weeks - but Cookson hit back angrily at claims that he was trying to avoid facing McQuaid in an election contest and that, if he was successful, he would run the world governing body from his home in Lancashire.
"Pat McQuaid has continuously asserted that I do not want to face a democratic vote in Florence," Cookson told delegates.
"Nothing could be further from the truth.
"I have total respect for the Constitution and democratic processes of the UCI, which I have followed to the letter at every step.
"At every turn throughout my campaign, I have fought for a democratic and transparent process to ensure that the rules are applied and that it is the voting delegates who will decide who should become the next UCI President.
"So I want to make the following pledge to you.
"Even if I were to be the sole candidate standing in Florence, I will only accept the Presidency if I receive a majority of delegate votes.
"I say this to you today and I have said it in writing to all National Federations.
"I say it because I believe in democracy and the rules of the game."
The public pledge by Cookson that he would live in Aigle, where the UCI was based, and not run the organisation from home in England in his "dressing gown and slippers" was also significant.
"I'll give a 100 per cent to the job of UCI President," he said.
If he is to win, Cookson must now persuade five of the remaining 25 votes from America and Asia, who have nine each, or Africa, who have seven, to vote for him.