One- on- one with a South African who started at the bottom, and made it all the way to the big time.
When hip-hop artist Drake wrote his hit song 'Started From The Bottom, he wasn't thinking of SA cyclist Nicholas Dlamini. But when you hear Dlamini's life story, the song seems made for him. Hailing from the poverty-stricken and crime-riddled township of Capricorn in Cape Town, Dlamini set himself apart from the young hustlers and gangsters in the area to become one of SA's most promising cyclists. He was recently moved up from the Team Dimension Data Continental squad to the Professional World Tour squad - and could line up with the world's best at the 2018 Tour de France. becoming the first black South African to do so. While that's not set in stone, judging by Dlamini's work ethic, ambitions and 2017 performance -including a King Of The Mountains jersey at the Baby Giro - it's a good bet. Dlamini continues to work hard to achieve his goals, and is inspiring his township to cycle in the process.
How did you get into cycling?
I used to do athletics, along with some trail running and duathlon. Then, when I was 12 years old, I started cycling. Vuyisa Mgolombane, a friend of mine who cycled at the time, introduced me to it. So I tried it, and I just loved it.
What was training like in those early days in Capricorn?
It was really difficult. Sometimes I trained on an empty stomach, because my mom was the only breadwinner. But she’d try her best for us to at least go to bed with something in our stomachs. I still admire her for all she’s done for us, and for supporting me. The roads weren’t safe either, so it was difficult for me to start training early. I always had to wait until there were some people around.
Was it strange for the community to see you cycling, in your kit?
Yes, very strange, actually – especially when I rode past groups of girls! They’d all laugh. But it never really offended me. And luckily, they’ve got used to it now.
Balance is a big part of your success. How did you manage to balance studying and training?
It was tough, but I had good, positive, structured people around me, with my best interests at heart. I left school after Grade 11 and did my matric year as a home student, because I was too busy racing; I was never at school, really. But that worked out well, actually – I’m studying Sports Coaching and Administration at the moment.
Has your cycling success caught on in Capricorn?
It has taken Capricorn by storm! Every youngster now wants to ride a bike, which is really a good thing. As one of the more well-known development riders, making it into a World Tour team, I have shown them that nothing is impossible in this world.