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Tour de France

Nicholas Dlamini: Cycling still has an enormous way to go in order to be a sport for all

'In 2021 I was the only Black rider at the Tour de France in a peloton of over 170, in 2022 there will be none,' says rider.

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Nicholas Dlamini (Team Qhubeka) has written a personal article and a timely reminder of just how far pro cycling is from becoming “a sport for all.”

Writing for the Team Qhubeka Community, the 26-year-old penned a story titled ‘Reflections’ in which he detailed his 2021 experience at the Tour de France. The South African, who races at Continental level with Team Qhubeka, was unable to make it to Paris last year but provided an inspiring performance nonetheless. He made history by becoming the first Black South African rider to start the Tour de France.

The article also centers around the fact that  Dlamini was the only Black rider on the startline at last year’s Tour de France. This year there are none.

Also read: Nic Dlamini: From South African township to Tour de France hero

Dlamini was unable to find a team at the top of the sport at the end of 2021 and despite some trailblazing successes for Black male and female cyclists in Europe, the Tour de France is still not a diverse sporting event.

“In 2021 I was the only Black rider at the Tour de France in a peloton of over 170, in 2022 there will be none,” Dlamini wrote.

“This year has seen some brilliant performances from some of my African colleagues. In Biniam Girmay the continent has a genuine superstar – and the world’s at his feet. We’ve seen great rides from the former Team Qhubeka teammates in Natnael Tesfatsion and Henok Mulubrhan among others, and there’s a fine crop of youngsters here in Lucca with me Negasi Haylu Abreha, Nahom Zeray, Efrem Gebrehiwet Araya, Ghebrehiwet Birhane and Travis Stedman, so the talent is there and it’s rising.

“There are more and more pathways being established to reach the very highest level for African cycling, which is great, but let’s not let go of the fact that cycling generally still has an enormous way to go in order to be a sport for all.”

The lack of racial and cultural diversity in pro cycling is a longstanding problem.

In 2020, the year before Dlamini made his debut, the only Black rider in the Tour de France was Frenchman Kévin Reza. The lack of open activism, compared to other sports, that cycling showed towards the BLM movement was detailed by Reza in an interview with Cyclingnews during the Tour de France, when he stated:

“I’m alone at this moment. That’s just a fact. I admire what those other sports are doing, but at the moment, I’m not sure if cycling is ready for that. Me, I feel ready, but I’m not going to carry out this fight alone and expend a lot of energy with little result. Right now, that’s not necessary.”

In a later article with the same title, Reza said: “Since the Tour de France, nothing much has changed. I heard a lot of talk but didn’t see much action taken in the different organizations who manage our sport. It’s a pity but that’s how it is.”

Two years on from Reza’s final Tour, and twelve months on from Dlamini’s debut, the South African remains hopeful for the future.

“I’m determined that together with my team once again take to the start line so that I can complete my dream of being a Tour de France finisher. Let’s hope that I won’t be standing alone when I do.”