It is around 10,000km from the township of Capricorn Park in Muizenberg, Cape Town to the roads around the salt marshes of the Salinas de Torrevieja park where, on August 24, Nic Dlamini will line up for the start of the Vuelta a Espana for Team Dimension Data.
The 24-year-old will take a breath and reflect on a journey that has taken him from riding a clunker on the streets of Capricorn to starting one of the three grand tours on the cycling calendar.
Team Dimension Data announced their line-up on Monday, with Dlamini becoming just the second black South African to start a grand tour, four years after Songezo Jim from Khayelitsha made his debut for the SA team in 2015.
Jim has since moved on and the team has reduced the number of African riders on their roster, but Dlamini has become a beacon for the development of the sport among black riders in SA. He is already a winner on the grand tour, having taken the King of the Mountains jerseys at the Tour of Britain and the Tour Down Under in 2018.
In the latter race, Dlamini was one of two South Africans on the podium that year, with Daryl Impey winning the race for the Australian Michelton-Scott team. Impey won a stage at the 2019 Tour de France and on Sunday took the overall victory at the four-day Czech Tour.
“I am really looking forward to the Vuelta — hopefully the first of many more,” laughed Dlamini on Monday. “I’m super excited and nervous at the same time. It’s a special one for me as it’s my first grand tour so I don’t know what to expect really, but I look forward to racing and adding good value to the team.
“I have had a reduced racing programme, so I’ve been training really hard for this Vuelta. My form has been super good, so I’m super confident going into the Vuelta.”
There are eight mountain-top finishes at the 2019 Vuelta, which begins with a team time trial on Saturday and ends in Madrid on September 15.
While Dlamini is not a pure climber, he has the ability to dig deep and be competitive when the road goes up. He will be joined at the Vuelta by compatriots Louis Meintjes, who finished 10th at the 2015 Vuelta, Jaco Venter and Eritrean Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier.
Impey helped his 23-year-old Australian teammate, Lucas Hamilton, to win the final stage of the Czech Tour on Sunday. Impey finished second on the stage.
“I have enjoyed a great season, but the underlying reason is the work the team puts into it behind the scenes. I am just fortunate to profit from the hard work I have put in and it’s great getting results along the way,” said Impey. “Winning is never easy, but with a team that is committed, anything is possible.”
Team Dimension Data on Monday also announced the signing of Belgian Victor Campenaerts for 2020 as a “marquee addition”. The team will be known as Team NTT after a merger between Dimension Data and Nippon Telegraph in 2020.
Campenaerts is a time-trial specialist and the current holder of the world 1hr record, which he set in Mexico in 2019, covering 55.089km in 60 minutes on the track. He currently rides for Lotto Soudal and took second in two stages at the Giro d’Italia and won the time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“I’m really looking forward to my new adventure with Team NTT next year,” said Campenaerts. “The contact that I had with the team earlier on [in the year] was immediately really positive — with riders at first, then with some of the staff and later on directly with [team founder and principal] Doug Ryder.
“The common interests were very positive for both parties, and we didn’t need to talk too much in order for us to agree on working together. 2020 is a big year, which, of course, includes the Olympic Games in Tokyo as a major highlight for many riders,” said Ryder.
“Our title sponsor, NTT, has its roots in Japan and so to prospectively have Victor challenging for a medal there will be a fantastic moment for us.”