Nic Dlamini is back on his bike in full training as he continues to make his comeback after breaking his arm at the end of 2019 in a widely publicised scuffle with SANParks rangers in Cape Town.
Yet to race this year, Dlamini recently received the all-clear to return to riding outdoors from his NTT Pro Cycling team’s medical department.
We caught up with him to see how he was doing, his thoughts on the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and what his remaining goals are for the season.
Nic, in light of the current situation with the coronavirus, where are you at the moment?
At the moment I’m in Holland, it’s quite a big thing obviously (here) and everyone is aware of it. I’ve just been trying not to touch anything as I go about my daily routine and I’ve also been training on my own. In Holland at the moment you are still permitted to train outdoors but obviously it’s better if you train alone. I also keep a distance when going to the shops and things like that.
You’ve recently returned to Europe and you’re back on the bike; what was it like to get that go-ahead from the medical staff to finally ride outdoors again?
Look, it was a phenomenal feeling. I’ve trained indoors for 10 weeks, I think that was more than enough! I was really looking forward to getting outdoors and just spending time on my bike, taking in the view and getting some fresh air for a bit. I had been waiting for that day for a long time and it finally came. I’m glad to be outside again and getting closer to where I was before.
You had your arm broken late last year, in an incident that received worldwide attention, how difficult has it been to recover from that and then get back into a frame of mind to train, with a view to get back to racing?
To be honest it was really difficult. It happened at a weird time, sort of really awkward but obviously I knew that the Olympics were in a few months' time so my goal was to try and get back and to be good for the Olympics and try and make it for the selection. I also had really good support that contributed to my motivation, so I think it’s worked really well.
Tell us about the support that you’ve received in your recovery process, both from those close to you and from the public at large?
The support was phenomenal, really amazing. A lot of people were messaging me and I remember the first couple of weeks I couldn’t really deal with both my phones. There were also a lot of messages on social platforms. It was also really nice having my family and girlfriend around and a lot of fans were sending messages of support so that was really nice to see.
The Olympic Games had been one of your key goals for the season but has now been postponed, what would it mean to represent your country at the Olympics?
To ride the Olympics has always been a dream of mine and representing South Africa would be a big achievement for me, to wear the colours with pride and do a good job. Now that they are postponed it gives me more time to prepare better because as I’d only had a couple of months to prepare for them so I wasn’t quite sure or super confident what I would be like in June, but now that they’re in 2021 I know that I have a lot of time to prepare and get myself in good condition for the Olympics.
Does this postponement in some ways work out quite well in your favour in terms of timing?
Absolutely, as I said it gives me enough time to prepare. Also with the coronavirus and with the readjustment of the calendar it plays into my hands as well, so in a way I have a lot of time to prepare and I don’t have to keep playing catch up. So when the racing resumes I’ll pretty much be on the same level as everyone and also the Olympics next year as well and I’ll hopefully be in good shape for them. I look forward to making the selection and hopefully get to represent South Africa there.
For various reasons, you haven’t even managed to meet a large number of your new team-mates and staff, it’s already March, that’s a fairly unique situation; can you perhaps just talk us through how that actually works?
I think in the cycling world it’s normal. We sometimes only get to see our teammates at the training camp and then you never see them during the season as everyone has a different race calendar so I guess that’s why it’s really important to have those training camps at the end of the year so you can see your team-mates and spend a bit of time with them. Everyone that does Grand Tours gets really close to their teammates, bonding with their teammates so it would be nice to have that sort of bond that you build in a Grand Tour, suffering with your teammates in races and understanding each other.
Does the fact that racing calendar is now potentially shifting much later in the year play into your hands? Which races in particular are you looking forward to the most?
Now that racing has been cancelled and some races postponed I have lot of time to train and get into good shape for the races coming up. I’m still super motivated and I can’t really wait to get back on the starting line and get to race and put up a good show.
I really love Dauphine for some reason, it’s really a nice race and the atmosphere is amazing I’d really to do it again this year and obviously I’d love to do a Grand Tour again this year and use everything that I learnt in last year’s Grand Tour (Vuelta) into a GT this year and get better results and also basically race as one team. The team has been really doing great since the start of the season so we want to keep that going.
2019 saw you in many ways still learning your craft at WorldTour level and you also rode your first Grand Tour, how much does what’s happening now set you back in terms of your own personal goals and ambitions?
I think if I didn’t break my arm late last year I would have been in really good shape at the moment and would have done a couple of races. That’s obviously not the case but I’m still motivated to get better and see what I’ve learnt from the Vuelta last year, and I think from everything that I learnt last year I think I’ll be able to be there in the finals (of races) and basically put up a great fight and get results. That’s one of the things that I’m really looking forward to this year when the racing resumes.