No, it did not start in 1994, but a race dominating podium sweep by Gewiss at the 1994 La Fleche Wallonne forced riders to stop ignoring what was happening. Dominant riders were left behind and the not-so strong were suddenly superhuman. Favorites simply couldn't keep up, and what was once ignored as limited to isolated abuse, came to dominate the sport for nearly 20 years.
“They were a machine that worked to perfection.” Max Sciandri on Gewiss. In hindsight, the warning… Read more Read more Roleur has a great review of the 1994 race that forced everyone to reconcile and speak to the dramatic changes in cycling. There were plenty of individual performances in prior years, but this was the first time a team felt confident, and arrogant enough to take all that it could. A podium sweep had never happened at a major race, and what once were isolated incidents came to be the norm.
Bruno Cornillet, a rider in the 90's observed:
It's very clear for me. In the 1992 Giro, I was really good in the hills and played a strong, active role. Then one day I made a break and was caught by Franco Vona – an Italian professional, but not so famous. I wanted to help him, but he made a sign for me to stay behind because I wasn't fast enough. Then suddenly, he started riding in a big gear on a hill that was more than 10 per cent. I went 'no, it's not possible…
The impact was not lost on the then-rising star, and future poster-child of the era, Lance Armstrong :
"They crushed us." The Festina affair in 1998 exposed juicing in cycling to a much wider audience, and the credibility of the sport has suffered ever since. Though testing was not introduced until 1999, with one exception (Carlos Sastre in 2008), every winner of the sports premiere event — the Tour de France — from 1996 to 2010 tested positive for, or admitted to, doping during their career.
And now a trip down memory lane and the successes of the 1994 Gewiss team (companion pieces to the above video of their performance at La Fleche Wallone).