Nicholas Dlamini will return to Australia to compete for a Commonwealth Games with the world at his feet, and a chance to catapult his career towards his dream of riding the Tour de France.
It’s a lot to will for the 22-year-old from Capricorn Park, near Muizenburg in Cape Town, but he has beaten many odds to be where he is today – on the cusp of greatness.
Dlamini is blessed with fire in his legs, a talent that has seen him excel at athletics and cycling. He was scouted and offered a scholarship by Cape Flats high school, Steenberg High for running, but turned it down because cycling had taken over his life.
Cycling was not an obvious sport for him to latch on to as a young boy. He may have been lost to cycling had it not been for a timely intervention in 2013 by Karl Platt, five times Cape Epic Winner.
While competing against each other in the Cape Rouleur, Pratt told Dlamini: “Why don’t you stick with cycling?”
The rest, as they say, is history, but Dlamini credits his mother with being the biggest influence on his life and career. “My mom is the best thing that’s ever happened to me … she was a mother and a father, and even though she had trouble paying school fees, we coped.”
Reminiscing about the first time he rode a bicycle, he says: “I was 12 when I rode a bike for the first time. I could never afford to buy a bike, but BEN (Bicycle Empowerment Network) gave me a bike and cycling kit for free.”
Dlamini first caught the attention of cycling enthusiasts when he won the King of the Mountain title in the Tour Down Under in January this year. The boy from Capricorn Park who used to hide his bike in the toilet for safekeeping is now a young neo pro (new professional) with an eye on a Commonwealth Games medal in Australia in April and a shot at the Tour de France in the near future.
“Australia is a nice place to ride a bike; it’s super hot but the mountains aren’t big enough. The same applies to Cape Town … the mountains are more like speed bumps!” he says.
Last year Dlamini served as a stagiaire (an amateur rider who is taken in by a professional team) on Team Dimension Data Qhubeka, the pride of African Cycling, and this year, having moved up in rankings, as a young pro.
“Mental strength is the key.”
Dlamini has set his sight on winning the white jersey (the prestigious jersey for the winner of the 25 or under category in the Tour de France) in 2020. “I’d like to have a go at winning the white jersey because that’s where you can benchmark yourself against the next generation of cyclists.”
And how does Dlamini intend realising that dream?
“Mental strength is the key,” he says. “Yes, you’ve got to be talented, and have decent preparation going into an event. I try to tell myself everyone is feeling the same … when it’s raining and snowing everyone is as cold as you are. I’m learning all the time and I’ve set the bar high.”
Timeline of Dlamini’s achievements:
1st African Junior Team Time Trial Championships (with Jandrich Kotze, Morne van Niekerk and Ivan Venter)
2nd African Team Time Trial Championships
2nd U23 South African National Time Trial Championships2nd Mayday Classic
3rd PMB Road Classic
9th Piccolo Giro di Lombardia
1st Mountains classification Girobio
2nd U23 National Time Trial Championships
5th GC Tour de Hongrie
6th Gran Premio Industrie del Marmo
8th South African National Road Race Championships
1st King of the Mountains Tour Down Under
We wish Dlamini all the best of luck for his cycling career and up coming Commonwealth Games.