Dreams do come true, and Nicolas Dlamini is proof. The 25-year-old makes his debut on cycling’s biggest stage, Tour de France, as the first Black South African to race at the prestigious tournament. He is part of the eight-member team selected by the top-flight professional cycling team Qhubeka-Assos.
“Being selected to ride in my first Tour de France is an absolute dream come true for me. It’s always been an absolute childhood dream for me and now that I’m about to live it makes it feel surreal,” Dlamini said in a team press release.
“I think it speaks to what the team is about, the Ubuntu [I am because we are] spirit, and how we change people’s lives because it is honestly a very special moment: to come from a small township and then to go to the Tour de France.”
Dlamini joins fellow teammates road captains Austrian Michael Gogl and Australia’s Simon Clarke, as well as the Italian 2015 Vuelta a Espana winner, Fabio Aru. The line-up also includes two other Tour debutants in American Sean Bennett, 25, and Belgian Victor Campenaerts. The others are Max Walscheid (Germany) and Colombian Sergio Henao.
Dlamini began grew up in an informal settlement in Cape Town, South Africa, and never in his wildest dreams did he ever think he would have the opportunity of a lifetime, per BBC Sports. He began chasing his dreams with an athletic career as a runner. A move to UCI’s World Cycling Centre Africa in Potchefstroom, South Africa, put him on the world map.
In 2016, he bagged a Continental-level contract with Dimension Data’s development team and became a World Tour trainee the following year.
Although this is Dlamini’s first Tour de France, he has competed in two editions of the Vuelta a España in 2019 and 2020, according to Cycling News.
“Considering where I come from it would simply have been impossible for me to have the opportunity to ride at the Tour de France if it wasn’t for Team Qhubeka-Assos,” he explained. “The platform that they’ve provided me, and other riders from Africa, to compete at the highest level in cycling has been critical.”
Qhubeka-Assos’ team principal Douglas Ryder also acknowledges that Dlamini’s inclusion is a special moment not only for him but the team and his home country as well.
“This will culminate in an incredible moment for him, South Africa, and especially for our team.
“His selection speaks to everything about what we’ve created and built with this team through providing hope, an opportunity, and then ultimately the platform to be on the biggest stage of all, the Tour de France.”
For Dlamini, he hopes his story inspires young South Africans to go for gold because “anything is possible” once the zeal to chase dreams is kept alive until that dream is achieved.
“I really hope that this will serve as a reference of hope and inspiration to many young South Africans, and people around the world, who have been working really hard to reach their dreams. I hope that they take from this that anything is possible.
“I want to race the Tour to inspire more kids on Qhubeka bikes to follow in my footsteps and to experience the world like I have, for more kids in communities to put their hands up for bikes to work hard as I did, to dream big.”
The 2021 Tour de France runs from June 26 to July 18 beginning from Brest to Paris. This is Qhubeka Assos’ seventh appearance including seven stage wins at the Tour after the team’s 2015 debut appearance., AFP reports.