Brian Cookson has claimed cycling is at a crossroads ahead of Friday's election of the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Cookson is challenging the incumbent president Pat McQuaid, from Ireland, and is confident of winning a clear majority.

McQuaid began the race for the presidency as the favourite but has suffered a number of damaging blows - including being rejected as a candidate by his home country Ireland and Switzerland, where he lives.

He now has to convince the UCI Congress in Florence that he can be nominated by another national federation.

Cookson, the head of British Cycling and who has Europe's backing, said he is taking nothing for granted and that the sport needs to recover its reputation after successive doping scandals.

He told reporters: "Elections can be won or lost in the last few days, I'm very conscious of that. I've been talking to a lot of people, a lot of voting delegates, and I know that there's a movement in my direction.

"I'm confident I'll have a majority, a clear majority but I don't want to put numbers on it at this stage.

"Friday is a crossroads moment. When delegates cast their vote I ask that they think of those millions of people who love our sport, who want to encourage their children to be a part of it as cyclists and as fans.

"I want to make our sport one where people can admire their heroes without doubt, aspire to compete, be a professional, even win a Tour or an Olympic medal and know that their friends will respect and not question them."

Even if McQuaid is barred from standing by the Congress, Cookson has said he will ask the 42 voting members to vote 'yes' or 'no' for him to be president.

He added: ""Even if Congress says he doesn't have a valid nomination, I will still ask for a positive vote in favor of me by the Congress. I will not take on the job by default.

"I don't want a coronation, I want a proper election and I want to take on the role of UCI president with the full support of the Congress."

Cookson said if he is victorious then his first task will be to build bridges with the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) and organise a "truth and reconciliation" process to deal with doping.

He said: "The kind of doping we've seen in recent generations has not been taking a pill behind the changing rooms. This is organised, structured doping, quasi-medical procedures and so on.

"Lots of people have been involved in these kinds of conspiracies. I want to spread the net to include those people and include them in the commission process and find out all of the truth, not just part of the truth.

"This isn't just about riders, this is about the entourage as well.

"The first thing I would do on Monday is put a call to WADA and get an agreement under way to establish the commission. I think we're looking at trying to get that process underway very quickly.

"Then we can go about establishing the reputation of our sport again."