South Africa Nic Dlamini go by bike Tour de France Saturday, away from the city of his childhood and hoping his odyssey inspires young people growing up in equally humble circumstances to reject gun crime.
Dlamini says there was a burst of joy when he was selected for the Tokyo Olympics that redoubled when news came that he would be competing in the world’s biggest bike race, the first South- Black African to do it.
His status in South Africa is such that Dlamini received a surprise call of congratulations from Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks captain Siya Kolisi.
“I wasn’t going to sleep much tonight anyway, but it was the highlight of my day,” said Dlamini, whose sporting director later said: “Nic is the Siya Kolisi of cycling in Africa.”
The 25-year-old may have left South Africa in his late teens for the posh Italian town of Luca, but he insists his thoughts will be with the children of Capricorn Park township who will take him there. argue as he pedals in France over the next month. .
“In the township itself, you would be well known for owning a gun,” he told AFP of his roots in Cape Town.
“You would be more respected if you own a gun or if you shoot someone. It’s a place where doing the wrong things gets you up there.
“Growing up, you would see from an early age that kids wanted to get involved in gangsterism because they saw that everyone looked up to gangsters.”
Dlamini says his rise to professional sport is helping to change that attitude.
“When they announced the Olympics (his own selection for Tokyo road racing) it started to make a difference, teenagers wanting to change their lives. It gave them hope that anything is possible. And when they announced the Tour, it was even stronger, ”he said.
He may also be a role model for standing up to the rangers in 2019, who broke their arm in a brawl over an alleged non-payment of an entry fee to where he was doing. biking.
Dlamini’s own role model is South African trail runner Ryan Sandes, who tried to persuade him to pursue a career in athletics.
“Cycling had become almost a part of my backbone by then,” he says of a decision that now appears to be the right one.
“My first bike was a re-spray, but I swear at the time it looked like the most beautiful bike I’ve ever seen,” Dlamini told AFP at his team’s hotel in Brittany. .
“If you grow up in a township you’re kind of like living in a club, you can’t go out and see better things. So I thought my bike was really cool,” he smiles.
He quickly joined a sports club and spent time away from Capricorn during the extended summer vacation at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
“We had a clubhouse and we were training and sleeping there, it was not the most beautiful place but I was 14 and we were training and watching the World Cup and the Tour de France with all the others, ”he recalls, recalling his beginnings.
“Lots of fond memories from the time,” said Dlamini, who would soon move to Luca and then to Girona in Catalonia after graduating from the Qhubeka World Tour team a few years ago.
“My mother (Gloria Zalani) is super proud and obviously the rest of my family is too. I have a five month old son and a wife and I wish they could be here with me,” he said. .
“Especially Mandela Day in Paris,” he added of July 18, which is also the arrival date of the Tour this year.