|General manager||Emanuele Bombini|
|Team name history|
Gewiss-Ballan was an Italian based road bicycle racing team active from 1993 to 1996, named after sponsor Italian Gewiss. The team was successful in the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France as well as several classic during the early 1990s.
The team was sponsored by the Mecair company and the Italian maker of garage doors Ballan in 1993. The Italian Electrical engineering company Gewiss took over as the main sponsor in 1994. Gewiss had previously sponsored the Bianchi cycling team from 1987 to 1989. In 1996 the second sponsor was taken by the Gewiss brand Playbus. Directeur sportifs with the team included Emanuele Bombini and Paolo Rosola. In the four years of its existence, the team achieved great successes.
The team produced winners of the Giro d’Italia – Evgeni Berzin and Ivan Gotti as well as top classic specialists Giorgio Furlan and Nicola Minali. Former World Champion Moreno Argentin finished his career with the team on a high note with stage wins at the 1993 Giro d'Italia as well as the impressive win at La Flèche Wallonne in 1994. The team dominated cycling during the 1994 season with Giorgio Furlan winning Tirreno–Adriatico (and Berzin second overall) and Furlan winning Milan–San Remo. Berzin then won Liège–Bastogne–Liège which was followed by Argentin’s win in La Flèche Wallonne. The win in the Fleche Wallonne was impressive because the team completely dominated the race with taking all podium places at the race with Argentin, Furlan and Berzin ahead of many greats of cycling at the time including Claudio Chiappucci, Franco Ballerini, Davide Cassani and Gianni Bugno.
After the Fleche Wallone of 1994, French sports newspaper L'Équipe interviewed the team’s doctor Michele Ferrari. Journalist Jean-Michel Rouet asked Ferrari if his riders used EPO to which Ferrari denied prescribing the drug but said he would not find it wrong, saying that it was not dangerous and compared taking EPO to drinking orange juice. This remark generated controversy and Ferrari later stepped down as team doctor.
In the following year, the team was not as dominant but still successful. Berzin came second at the 1995 Giro d'Italia behind Tony Rominger and ahead of his teammate Ugrumov. The team set the record speed of the team time trial at the 1995 Tour de France of 54.930 km/h. This speed stood for ten years until Lance Armstrong's Discovery Channel Team broke it during the 2005 Tour de France. The Gewiss team beat Laurent Jalabert's Team ONCE to second place and the defending champion Miguel Indurain’s Banesto to third place. Riis would wear the maillot jaune in that year’s Tour before eventually finishing third overall.
The team is well known due to systematic doping that occurred with the team. The team doctor, Michele Ferrari was an assistant of Professor Francesco Conconi at the Biomedical Institute at the University of Ferrara in Italy. Conconi together with his assistants is said to have introduced Erythropoietin or EPO to the sport of cycling.
On January 11, 1999 Danmarks Radio aired The Price of Silence in Denmark, the first of a three part series that detailed doping in cycling of the Team ONCE and Gewiss teams. The programme alleged that EPO was used by the Gewiss-Ballan team in 1995. The journalists had come into possession of papers of hematocrit levels of riders of the team which showed large fluctuations from normal levels to those indicating doping. These figures would later be published in L’Equipe (discussed below). In addition the documentary told of how during the Tour of Denmark on August 4, 1995, journalists made a doping find in a hotel room where the soigneur of Gewiss Paolo Ganzerli had slept the night before. Six riders of the team had also stayed in the hotel on that night of August 3, 1995. The journalists found a Gewiss bag filled with 12 used and bloodied needles, an ampule which according to its label contained Recomon 5000 (EPO) and three blank ampules of which subsequent tests revealed contained EPO.
Further revelations about systematic doping on the team were published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica and the French sport's paper L'Equipe in 1999. These were based on published writing from journalist Eugenio Capodacqua from the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica. Capodacqua published blood values (hematocrit levels) from Gewiss riders and results of an investigation into the team and its doctor Michele Ferrari. On March 12, 1999 L’Equipe published a table of hematocrit levels of Gewiss riders that were taken from December 1994 to May 1995. This was before the UCI limit of a hematocrit level of 50% which came into effect in 1997. Bjarne Riis rode for the team at the time and his levels went from 41.1 to 56.3, Gotti from 40.7 to 57 and Berzin from 41.7 to 53. Ugrumov had the highest level at 60%. Riis immediately denied the validity of the figures. Riis’s hematocrit level of 41.1% in a test conducted on January 14, 1995 was a normal value for an adult male while six months later on July 10, 1995 several days after Riis wore the maillot jaune for the first time at the Tour de France, his level was 56.3%.
Another doctor of the team, Dr.Mazzoni, was in a separate case, accused of promoting doping in sports.
Hematocrit variations 1994-1995
These are the published hematocrit variations (in percentage) of Gewiss riders in 1994 and 1995. The following seven riders' hematocrit levels range from the first figure which was taken on December 15, 1994 to the second figure which was taken on May 24, 1995.
- Vladislav Bobrik (Rus) : 42.7 to 53
- Bruno Cenghialta (Ita): 37.2 to 54.5
- Francesco Frattini (Ita) : 46 to 54
- Giorgio Furlan (Ita) : 38.8 to 51
- Nicola Minali (Ita) : 41.7 to 54
- Piotr Ugrumov (Lat) : 32.8 to 60
- Alberto Volpi (Ita) : 38.5 to 52.6
On January 14, 1995 Evgeni Berzin recorded a level of 41.7% while on May 24, 1995 he recorded 53%. On January 14, 1995 Ivan Gotti recorded a level of 40.7% while on August 9, 1995 he recorded 57%. As discussed previously Bjarne Riis recorded a hematocrit level of 41.1% on January 14, 1995 while on July 10, 1995 he recorded 56.3%.
Many well known and successful cyclists rode for Gewiss:
- Moreno Argentin (1993–1994)
- Eugeni Berzin (1993–1996)
- Vladislav Bobrik (1993–1996)
- Guido Bontempi (1994–1995)
- Bruno Cenghialta (1994–1996)
- Gabriele Colombo (1994–1996)
- Giorgio Furlan (1994–1995)
- Ivan Gotti (1995–1996)
- Andreas Kappes (1993)
- Nicola Minali (1993–1996)
- Bjarne Riis (1994–1995)
- Piotr Ugrumov (1993–1996)
- Stefano Zanini (1995–1996)
Most important wins
- Milan–San Remo 1994, 1996
- Tirreno–Adriatico 1994
- La Flèche Wallonne 1994
- Liège–Bastogne–Liège 1994
- Giro di Lombardia 1994
- Giro d'Italia 1994
- 2nd overall 1994 Tour de France
- Paris–Tours 1995, 1996
- 3rd overall 1995 Tour de France
- 2nd & 3rd overall 1995 Giro d'Italia
- Amstel Gold Race 1996
- "The 'Too Good To Be True' Fleche: 1994". Pez Cycling. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- "An Interview With Dr. Michele Ferrari, part two". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- "Stage 4 wrap up: Armstrong gets yellow in dramatic stage". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-24.
- "More Drug revelations". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- "Danish TV claim Riis used drugs in 1995". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- "The Gewiss Doping Dossier". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-23.
- "L'Equipe's Doping Articles". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
- "Les curieuses statistiques de Gewiss". Cyclisme dopage.com. Retrieved 2008-05-01.