Barberino di Mugello is a village of just over 10,000 inhabitants nestled in the beautiful Mugellan landscape, among the Apennines that divide Tuscany from Romagna. The territory of Barberino occupies the western part of the valley of Mugello, crossed by the Sieve River that is located in the area of Barberino di Mugello in the Montecuccoli area (Caposieve). The territory, inhabited since the Neolithic, saw the first buildings of the area already in the Etruscan and Romanesque era, although only during the Middle Ages, with the construction of the road that from Florence climbed towards the Futa, Barberino became a fixed settlement and important economic center of exchange in the street between the Apennines. Not far from Barberino, during the Renaissance the Medici family built in Cafaggiolo one of their villas, among the most beautiful ever built by the Florentine family and used as a country residence.
In 1999, in order to regulate the floods of the Sieve and to have a water reserve that could meet the water needs of the nearby city of Florence, the Reservoir of Bilancino was built. On the southern shore of the lake was built a road that skirts the shore then named after one of the most representative citizens of Barberino di Mugello, Gastone Nencini.
A Grass Champion
Gastone Nencini was born in Barberino di Mugello on March 1, 1930 to a wealthy family of cattle senses. His father Attilio was a well-known figure among the Tuscan cattle merchants and Mugello in particular. He didn't care much about sports, but it was impossible not to notice on the sports page the narratives of the exploits of a promising young cyclist who strangely had his own surname. Increasingly suspicious one evening of returning from work in the township of Bilancino where they lived, he asked his son if he was the Nencini that everyone is talking about. It was better for him to have a child go to work than to risk breaking his neck bone on a bike. Gastone denied this, and to corroborate his hypothesis, he replied, "And who has a bike to run?"
The bicycle indeed Gastone had it, a new flaming Pinzani who, because of his father's aversion to that world, had to hide one day from an uncle and the next day from a friend. The bicycle bought itself going to work as a king quarryman in the Sieve, obviously secretly from his father but with so much enthusiasm and energy that he soon managed to raise the amount that was used for that purchase so important to him.
The First Years in the Saddle
Before switching to cycling, Gastone played football as a goalkeeper for the Borgo San Lorenzo team, but he did not feel that passion as his own, thus moving permanently to two wheels in 1948. His first team was the A.S. Tavarnuzze, where he began to compete as a student running about fifteen races and winning three, all by a distance. The second victory came in October 1948 at the San Gervasio Cycling Trophy, a 122 km race won in a sprint after arriving alone at the top of the Pratolino Mile: you can read the story in two articles of the era Here and Here.
Already in the early years journalists described Gastone as a cyclist never tamed, energetic and always on the attack, strong both uphill and downhill.
In 1949 he became an amateur with the Filam Florence team, having a non-exciting start due to the change of category. After a period of setting, however, he began to achieve excellent placements, until he arrived at the victory on October 8, 1949 in the home race of the Bilancino in which he gave a gap of 5th on the second place (Here to read the article). He began to be considered by insiders to be an athlete for sure.
Due to his growing fame, his father Attilio, while working at Ponte in Ema, decided to wait for the arrival of the local race that his namesake was racing that day. He didn't have to wait long, as that race was won by Gastone. The next dialogue between the two was a brief monologue by his father: "You immediately stop being a runner and sell the bike. If I see it on your hands, I'm going to break it. Is that clear?" Fortunately for the whole cycling world, Gastone did not follow his father's directives.
The Passage to the Outrage – 1950
The following year, in 1950, the transition to what was at the time the strongest amateur team in Tuscany, namely the S.S. Oltrarno, was concrete: the Florentine club had the need to replace Bruno Giannelli, who had spent that year as a professional to the Bartali team. Pinzani was the first to welcome the new rider, creating a new custom bike "perfect in all respects". Even "Mara", Bartali's famous mechanic, began to give advice to the young cyclist, many expectations for Gastone.
As with the previous year, Nencini's 1950s also began uphill, with a series of placings but no victories. The ice was broken on July 15 in Pavullo, where not even three punctures stopped the future Lion of Mugello winner with a gap of 5th on the second.
From there on he established himself with an impressive crescendo by winning the Camels Cup in Borgo San Lorenzo, the Ski Cup in San Casciano, the Coppa Partigiani in Rifredi, the Workers' Cup of Bilancino, the Florence-Pratolino time trial, in Soffiano on the home roads of teammate Bartolozzi, the Bruschi Cup in Grassina, the Bagliomini Cup in Porta Romana to finish in the flat. There were 10 wins this season, including eight in a row. The Grand Prix of Florence, in addition to being the last race on Tuscan soil, was also a test for racing specialists against the blazon time to have participants from outside the region: so, the victory of Gastone Nencini only confirmed the idea that he would almost certainly be the new star of Italian cycling.
Following such an extraordinary year, Gastone felt it was time to move on as a professional by finding an agreement with the Turin team of Benotto, with the aim of debuting the following year at Milan-San Remo. Some rumors, denied by Nencini himself, who wanted to compete to win and not to make the "ciuco" of the group, instead assumed his passage to Bartali. Another option was to run as an independent, that is, competing individually without a team.
Just Pinzani, who always had a lot of ascendancy on Gastone, in an interview that you can read here said; "I think Gastone makes a mistake in attempting this step. For my competence I would judge normal similar passage to the middle of the season of 1951, that is, when the world championships were held. Nencini may have given too much weight to the stunning end-of-season victories. I see in him a very good independent is true, but above all an excellent amateur. As such, therefore, my advice is to wait for greater exploitation that could very well come to him from the world amateur championships to which Gastone would be one of the strongest our representatives. As long as he confirms his beautiful qualities next season." He finally decided to remain an amateur, both for an age speech (he was in his early twenties and in those years it was very rare for cyclists of that age to switch to professionalism) and the fact that he was still tactically very acerbic. With this choice he became the spearhead of the white-green society, aiming to wear the blue jersey of the national team at the World Amateur Cycling Championship that would be organized in Italy in Varese.
In his early years as a runner Gastone Nencini was a powerful but very rough rider: he rode his bike with his head down and always went full, regardless of tactics and without difference between climb and plain. He came first sowing everyone if his breath held, otherwise he was the one who was sown: young and without a guide, he did not take it for defeats on the contrary increased the training loads. With the entrance to the Oltrarno the story began to change and he was put under the protective wing of the sporting director Nello Magherini, former director of the team A.S. Eagle of Bridge in Ema where he took his first steps the great Gino Bartali. Nel remained stone-faced as soon as he learned of the mileage Gastone did daily to train, urging him to work less so as not to strain his powerful legs too much.
The Home Cup – 1951
As mentioned, 1951 was the year of the home World Cup: Italy had not organized them for twenty years, since that 1932 in Rome where the Azzurra expedition had dominated obtaining victory in both categories: a double between the professionals with Binda and Bertoni and the victory in the amateurs with Martano (in his second world laurel after that of two years before , always as an amateur).
The amateur team was captained by the technical commissioner Giovanni Proietti, who followed throughout the year the most promising young cyclists scattered throughout Italy: Nencini was one of them and was aggregated to the blue group composed of twelve cyclists who took part in several national amateur races. These races served the C.T. to choose the final team ahead of the World Cup and they showed off a Nencini in splendid shape.
Before the World Championship, the 21-year-old Gastone took part in several races, winning the Race of the four provinces, a race in Busto Arsizio, the Cervellati Grand Prix in Bologna and the 11th edition of the "Cremonini Cup": on the finish line of Pelago, among the most prestigious of the entire amateur program, he triumphed by beating the peer Remo Bartalini and the 25-year-old Pientino Giovanni Bindi.
Finally at the end of August were designated the names of the runners who would represent Italy at the World Championships in Varese: Benedetti, Ciancola, Chidini, Masarati, Nencini and Zanotti.
The amateur line race included a 172,200 km course that ran from Varese through the three Varesine valleys, repeating 7 times a 24.4 km circuit. At the start the group consisted of 84 riders representing 17 nations: on the fourth lap a group attempted a sortie, including Gastone Nencini who on the fifth lap attempted the solo escape, coming to have a two-and-a-half minute lead over the first pursuers. At the beginning of the seventh and final lap Nencini's advantage dropped to 1'and 50', his pedaling became woody and fatigued due to the great effort put in the previous two laps. Just 8 km from the finish line, Nencini was taken over by two pursuers, one of whom was teammate Ciancola, the World Amateur champion in the next edition: shortly after the group re-appeared and the jersey was won in a sprint by the Italian Ghidini, followed by Benedetti and the Dutch Plantaz. With that World Championship the whole cycling world rubbed its eyes at the sight of this rider so fearless and strong, that with a very brave and heroic action he had tried to win in his own way, detaching everyone to arrive alone on arrival. Due to his "garliness", as D.T. Magherini lovingly described it, and a tactical vision yet to be refined, Nencini came off the group in 21st position and with a delay of 35'' exhausted and without strength despite proving to be the fitst cyclist.
Returning to the Oltrarno, he dominated the subsequent races, bringing to eight his triumphs of that year, stunning the insiders showing how he had crumbled during the blue retreat: his pedaling was looser but at the same time powerful, the posture on the bike more suitable, with a consciousness of his own means decidedly superior.
The last years as an amateur 1952-1953
1952 was not a year to remember for the young Gastone. After two years as a dominator in Tuscany and a great World Cup played many expected a move to the professionals. This was not the case for the advice of Pinzani and Magherini who considered him still inexperienced in the management of the race. The year began with a fifth place in the first race of the season in Gavinana, followed by a great victory at the Samaia Cup in Mercatale.
Unfortunately due to poor form, C.T. Proietti did not summon him to the Olympic Games in Helsinki, where Italy won a silver medal in the team race while he remained dry-mouthed in the online race. At the next World Championships held in Luxembourg, Italy won the previous year with a great performance from Luciano Ciancola. For Nencini a colorless test, as it was all season. The season ended with only three wins and a few placings.
1953 brought us back a Nencini in great shape, able to re-establish his hegemony in Amateur cycling Tuscan and Italian. His first victory came in May in the Budini Cup, after a long-distance escape and beating his day's teammate in the sprint. After two consecutive second places he returned to success in Arezzo, making everyone understand that the cyclist had returned two years ago and that 1952 was only a distant memory. The Gori Cup victories in Biagioni, the Giro del Casentino and the Camaiore Grand Prix followed. After these results, Nencini was included in the squad for the 1953 World Amateur Championships in Lugano. During the training competitions it was clear to everyone that Nencini would definitely be one of the men to beat in the world chermesse getting three more victories, in Varese, Campi Bisenzio and Coppa Caduti Santambrogini, both for detachment and in the sprint (quality that Gastone was refining and that had started to bear fruit just that year). After the last race won, on August 23, the commissioner Proietti defined what would be the team that would run at the World Championship: Nencini, Zucconelli, Filippi, Porzin, Fabbri and Gianneschi starters with Bruni, Ranucci, Ciolli and Fantini the reserves.
The 1953 World Cycling Championship held in Lugano was famous for the great victory of the champion Fausto Coppi, already winner that year of his fifth and last lap of Italy who with a escape started at the 13th (out of 19) lap brought back the title of world champion in Italy and that was missing for 20 years.
For amateurs the race consisted of a 180km race spread across a 15km circuit repeated 12 times. There were 115 starters representing 24 countries and the Italian team was the nation to beat. The race was dominated by the blue colors, with the escape attempts before Gianneschi first, Ponzin then to weaken the resistance of the opponents. In the end, Nencini and Filippi managed to gain a handful of meters from the group and compete in the sprint for the title. Italy won the Amateur World Cup for the third time and Coppi won the day after a historic double. The sprint between the blues was won by Filippi who beat Nencini on a bicycle.
It was gastone's last appearance in the national amateur team, which after winning a few more races with the S.S. Oltrarno jersey began in 1954 his adventure among the professionals with the Legnano team. He moved soon after to Leo Chlorodont and finished third and first in the Giro d'Italia and then at Carpano where he finished second in the Giro and won the Tour de France in 1960.