NTT Pro Cycling's Nic Dlamini has recovered from the broken arm he received at the hands of Table Mountain National Park rangers near Cape Town, South Africa, in December last year, and says that he's ready to race again once the 2020 season resumes following the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
According to witness Donovan Le Cok, who videoed part of the incident on his phone, the park rangers stopped Dlamini – who was training in the park on his bike – and then forced him into their van, which was when his arm was broken. The video went viral, leaving people outraged by the heavy-handed actions of the park rangers, who allegedly stopped Dlamini for not paying to enter the park or displaying a proof-of-activity permit.
In a Q&A published on his NTT team's website this weekend, Dlamini said that he was back training outside on his bike in the Netherlands after 10 weeks of using his home trainer, and that he was now fully recovered and looking forward to racing again.
While his injury threatened his selection for South Africa for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which were due to take place this summer, the Games' postponement has in fact counted in his favour, giving him time to return to racing this season and try to gain selection for the Olympics, which are set to now take place next year.
"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," Dlamini said. "That's obviously not the case, but I'm still motivated to get better and see what I've learned from the Vuelta a España last year, and from everything that I learned 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.
"I've trained indoors for 10 weeks; I think that was more than enough," he said. "I’ve really been 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," said Dlamini, who in the Netherlands is allowed to train outside, unlike the current situation for pro riders in countries such as Spain and Italy. "I'm glad to be outside again and getting closer to where I was before."
'My goal was to try to get back and be good for the Olympics'
Of the incident last year that left him injured, Dlamini recalled the time as "difficult", without commenting further on the treatment he received at the hands of the SANParks rangers.
"Obviously, I knew that the Olympics were in a few months’ time, so my goal was to try to get back and to be good for the Olympics, and to try to make it for the selection. I also had really good support that contributed to my motivation, so I think it's worked really well.
"The support was phenomenal – really amazing," the 24-year-old South African continued. "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."
Dlamini feared that his Olympic dream may have been over, but the postponement has given him the extra time he needed to try to qualify and be in top condition for the Games.
"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," he said. "Now that they are postponed, it gives me more time to better prepare because as I'd only had a couple of months to prepare for them, I wasn't quite sure or super confident of 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.
"So when the racing resumes, I'll pretty much be on the same level as everyone else, and I'll hopefully be in good shape for the Olympics as well. I look forward to making the selection and hopefully get to represent South Africa there."
'I'd love to do a Grand Tour again this year'
When asked which events he was looking forward to on this year's calendar, which will look very different this season, Dlamini said that he'd like to ride the Critérium du Dauphiné again – which he last rode in 2018 – and the French stage race could prove to be his return to racing, scheduled as it is currently for May 31-June 7, although subject to change.
"I really love the Dauphiné for some reason," said Dlamini. "It's really a nice race, and the atmosphere is amazing, and I'd really like to do it again this year.
"And I'd love to do a Grand Tour again this year and put everything that I learned at last year's Grand Tour [the Vuelta] into another one 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," he said.
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