Though he crashed out of the race after falling outside of the time limit, elite South African cyclist Nic Dlamini says he was driven to finish the tough ninth stage of the Tour de France in the hope of encouraging and inspiring younger riders back home.
Dlamini, riding for Team Qhubeka NextHash, fell early in the 144km stage to Tignes on Sunday but refused to throw in the towel.
The 25-year-old rider was the last man home, finishing an hour and 25 minutes after Australia’s Ben O’Connor hauled himself into second place in the overall standings.
In the pouring rain, Dlamini crossed the line to heartwarming applause from devoted fans while organisers packed up the finish area.
“It would’ve been easier to get in the car for the final 25km with the heater on but I wanted to respect the sport and my team and honour my dream of trying to finish the race, even though I was an hour-and-a-half over the time limit,” he said.
Dlamini, making his Tour de France debut, became the first black South African to compete at the prestigious three-week race when he lined up at the start.
“I’m really happy to be granted the opportunity and I hope it doesn’t stop here,” said the gutsy climber, who will make his Olympic debut at the upcoming Tokyo Games.
“I hope to encourage and inspire a lot of youngsters back home and in Africa.”