In 2010, South Africa held the first African World Cup. Rather than get swept up in a game he has never played, Dlamini was closing in making his decision to pursue cycling as his career, finalising his dalliance with athletics and triathlons and researching the achievements of Roche.
“I never really knew who he was. I did a bit of research about him and saw he’s won world champs, the Tour de France… He is known for the ‘Triple Crown’ so I have so much respect for that. It is really nice to have guys like him recognising the talent in South Africa.”
At the time of Dlamini’s decision in 2013, the Tour de France was celebrating its first African maillot jaune. Closer to home, 2013 was MTN-Qhubeka’s first season as a Pro Continental team. At the Tour Down Under, Dlamini is riding for Dimension Data in the same peloton as Daryl Impey, Africa’s first Tour de France yellow jersey holder and role model for Dlamini.
“I have always looked up to Daryl Impey. I remember when I won the king of the mountain [at the Baby Giro] he was one of the guys who sent a tweet out. He was one of the guys I have always wanted to meet and to be able to race with him is phenomenal,” he said, adding of his pride to be riding for Africa’s first WorldTour team.
“I have always wanted to be a professional cyclist. Obviously with smaller races in Cape Town and we have MTN-Qhubeka, now Dimension Data, and I have always wanted to join the team. It is really nice to see down the line I am part of the team and now it is WorldTour, I am part of that as well.”
Like the majority of the peloton, the Tour de France is the race that captures Dlamini’s imagination. Along with riding the French Grand Tour with Dimension Data, Dlamini is eyeing off the Tokyo Olympic Games road race in 2020. In the immediate future though, the Belgian classics occupy Dlamini’s race programme.
Dispite the high praise of Roche, Fondriest, Ben Swift and Bernie Eisel, among many others, Dlamini’s feet remain on the ground, with the memories and lessons of the hard work and sacrifice that led to his WorldTour contract still fresh.
“It all goes down to hard work and commitment. I remember back then I would go out on a ride when I first got my bike and five Ks into the ride the chain would break or something and there was a lot of stuff that would happen on the bike and I would have to walk back home then try and get it fixed and maybe go out depending on what time it was. There was a lot of challenges back then but obviously, I never gave up. I just keep going.
“I always know that I have to put down a lot of work. Not often one gets in touch and gets to see their role models. I think I am quite fortunate to be in contact with all my role models and hearing from them.”