Sean Kelly has hit out at Pat McQuaid's critics as the Irish cycling chief prepares for a crucial vote that could determine whether he stays on as UCI president.

Cycling Ireland's clubs will decide whether the federation should nominate McQuaid to stand for re-election as Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president at an extraordinary general meeting in Dublin tomorrow.

McQuaid is being challenged by British Cycling chief Brian Cookson for the leadership of the UCI and he needs the backing of his home federation for his name to be on the ballot paper when the UCI's members vote in September.

The UCI was implicated in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal by the US Anti-Doping Agency and was criticised by the World Anti-Doping Agency when an independent panel it established to examine its own alleged complicity was disbanded before it could report.

That has led to strong criticism of McQuaid, but his compatriot Kelly thinks the critics have been too harsh on the 63-year-old, who has been president since 2006.

"I definitely think Pat McQuaid does not get enough credit for what he has done," said Kelly, a four-time green jersey winner at the Tour de France.

"It was a real difficult time for cycling. These were bad years for cycling and McQuaid has suffered because of that.

"But we must also remember the good things he has done. He has managed to improve the image of cycling in the last few years with the introduction of the biological passport.

"That has been working very well," Kelly said. "It has taken a lot of riders out of the sport and I think the sport is better for it at the moment.

"When we look at the way cycling is going at the moment he has done a good job in the latter years."

"He has managed to improve the image of cycling in the last few years" - Sean Kelly

The UCI introduced biological passports in to the sport in 2008 in an attempt to eradicate doping.

Many riders have been caught out by the system, although it also has its critics.

Despite his praise for McQuaid, with whom he used to cycle, Kelly admits Cookson's popularity within the sport will make the battle between the two for the UCI presidency a close-run thing.

"It will be an interesting one because with Brian Cookson coming in it is going to be a big challenge," Kelly added.

"It's going to be very close. I don't know how it's going to go."