Ready to make history this weekend when he lines up for the opening stage of the Tour de France, gutsy climber Nic Dlamini hopes to do more than just take part as he aims to make a statement by playing an attacking role for his team.
Dlamini, the first black South African to compete at the gruelling annual race, said this week that he was eager to get going for SA-registered outfit Qhubeka Assos.
“It was always my childhood dream to ride the Tour de France, and now that I’m about to live that dream, it’s very special,” said Dlamini, also a member of the national Olympic team for next month’s Tokyo Games.
The 25-year-old rider said he appreciated all the support he had received back home, and he hoped his participation would serve as inspiration to children from historically disadvantaged backgrounds.
“I hope it really means a lot to the kids in townships, as a reference for them that there is hope to reach their dreams if they work hard,” he said.
Dlamini, who won the mountains classification at the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Britain in 2018, is one of four debutants in the Qhubeka Assos team for the race. He is also the only African rider representing the local outfit.
He was nonetheless soaking in the experience after arriving for the Tour this week, and deflecting unwanted pressure ahead of the brutal contest.
“I just want to go out and enjoy the race, first of all. I think that’s the most important thing,” he said.
“I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on myself, but I want to do my duties, help my teammates and get in the breakaways.
“We’re actually going in with a slightly different approach this year, and we’re going to ride aggressively at the front of the race, so I’m really looking forward to that.”
The 108th edition of the Tour de France starts in Brest on Saturday, with the first of 21 stages to be held in the three-week race.