Nic likely to score historic Tour de France ride
When Gloria Dlamini named one of her twins Nikita, after the famous Elton John song, she did not imagine her other child would some day have ties with her musical idol.
But Nicholas Dlamini, 21, is on the cusp of becoming the first black African to race in the Tour de France, and is an ambassador for the Elton John Aids Foundation.
Dlamini, from Capricorn Park in Cape Town, became the youngest winner of the London-Paris cycle race at the age of 17 and rides on the Dimension Data Continental Development team, which competes in the UCL Europe Tour.
He is a product of the Hotchillee Development Rider Programme, of which the British music icon is a funder. Hotchillee founder Sven Thiele said the aim was to turn athletes into international stars.
"With somebody like Nic we could create something scalable and successful, and as a result a number of other riders have come out and done the same," he said.
Dlamini sprang to prominence when he won the Cape Rouleur race in Franschhoek in 2014. He won praise from former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche, who attended the race, and John stepped in to pay for Dlamini's education.
This year, the rider completed his first UCL Europe Tour, where the world's best under-23s compete to earn contracts from professional teams.
"It's a really tough tour. The guys my age are already a few years ahead of me in terms of experience so I'm playing a game of catch-up," said Dlamini.
"But having spent most of the year there and learning a lot the results started to show towards the end of the season when we were much more competitive instead of being also-rans."
Thiele is training 16 development riders from the Cape Flats, and has roped in Swedish ex-professional Magnus Backstedt to help with coaching.