Nicholas Dlamini: “the head, the heart, the physique to go far”
Nicholas Dlamini won the King of the Mountains crown in the Baby Giro last year and he’s climbed into the polka-dot jersey three days in a row at the Santos Tour Down Under.
Three stages. Three early attacks. First over every categorised climb so far in the 20th Tour Down Under. That’s a quick summary of Nicholas Dlamini’s efforts since Tuesday. He’s leading the climbing classification with 36 points, 18 more than his regular escape companion Scott Bowden.
Doug Ryder, the team principal of Dlamini’s Dimension Data squad, has been introducing talented riders to the peloton for years. And the South African gushes when he tells the story of his compatriot’s arrival in the WorldTour.
Before the start of stage three, Ryder explained the backstory of Dlamini. Moments later the 22-year-old would go on the attack again and crest the Penny’s Hill Road climb… in, yep, first place.
Tomorrow’s fourth stage features a climb up Norton Summit with the top only 7.4km from the line. There’s been talk about this new feature of the route for days and while the assumption is that the prize jerseys will change, it remains to be seen if anyone can wrestle the polka-dot top off the shoulders of Dlamini.
“Our major focus today is for Nicholas Dlamini to stay in – and hold – the King of the Mountains jersey,” said rider just before the start of stage three. “He’ll be attentive and active again in the race because today is probably the last day that he’ll have some ‘easy’ points to potentially get. ‘Easy’ in a very loose term.
“The temperature is affecting every rider differently and even though some of our riders have come from South Africa, this heat is complete different: much hotter, much dryer. And so it is affecting the guys a little bit.
“But we hope for a good day and we hope to get a good result out of this race.”
Dlamini is making an impression his WorldTour debut, visiting the podium after every stage of the 201th Tour Down Under…
Dimension Data has said from the get-go that their leader for the 2018 Tour Down Under will be the champion of the race from 2013, Tom Jelte-Slagter, but Dlamini has been the most visible rider from the team so far in 2018.
On the opening days, Dlamini joined both Bowden and Will Clarke (EF-Drapac) in The Early Break. In stages one and two, Clarke drag raced the young South African to the line in the quest for climbing points. Dlamini won both times.
“Will Clarke is a really good rider with a big engine. And it just shows how unbelieveably good Nicholas Dlamini is… he’s a guy with a massive amount of power and he’s built a bit like a Zulu warrior, so he doesn’t look like a bike rider. He looks like he could be a wrestler but he’s got a good kick on him and he’s got a strong head for a young guy who is actually in his first WorldTour race.
“He lacks experience but he believes in himself and he’s got a good director in the car.”
This is a photo of Dlamini’s home in Capricorn Park, South Africa (above).
What’s Dlamini’s background and how did Dimension Data find this talented young rider?
“He is from Cape Town but he comes from a community.
“He was actually a runner and got a scholarship to school to be a runner. And then he got a bicycle and joined a local club and then started to fall in love with cycling.
“He’s been with us about five years now,” confirmed Ryder. “He was on our development team right in the early days when we were still with the World Cycling Centre and we funded a Continental team out of Africa in association with the World Cycling Centre of the UCI.
“Nic has been with us a long time and then spent the last two years in Europe at our base in Italy.
“Last year, a massive result was the King of the Mountains jersey in the Baby Giro… so he got some real good exposure out there.
“His first year in Europe, he really sucked and really suffered – as we all do in different racing, bigger bunches and narrow roads. And then, last year, he had a much better year and now he’s got an opportunity to race on the WorldTour team.
“He comes from a community called Capricorn Park: lots of gangsters, lots of drugs, lots of crazy things…
“He really is a super humble guy who has valued every opportunity and you can just see: he’s super respectful of the sport and of the riders that he’s with. And I think he’ll go a long way because has the head, the heart and the physique to potentially go far.”
– By Rob Arnold