JOHANNESBURG – Top South African road cyclist Daryl Impey ranks his maiden World Tour title general classification victory at the Tour Down Under over the weekend as the greatest achievement of his career.
It was a red letter day for South African cycling with Nicholas Dlamini being crowned King of the Mountains in his first World Tour race.
While the 22-year-old Dlamini’s star is rising, it was the seasoned veteran Impey who grabbed all the headlines with his victory.
Impey, who holds the honour of being the first South African to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, surprised with his victory after he went into the race as the final lead-out rider for Mitchelton-SCOTT teammate Caleb Ewan.
The South African said the win came as a great relief after he went into the final stage with the same time as Richie Porte.
“Wearing the yellow jersey at the Tour de France was a magical moment but this is very close to that,” Impey told the Mitchelton-SCOTT team website.
“I worked really hard for this one and especially knowing how important it is to the team and the sponsors. It was a high-pressure race for us, everyone expects a lot so to top it off with a win is very special.”
Impey’s best result before this victory was winning the 2009 Tour of Turkey title while he also has team time trial silver and bronze medals at the World Championships.
“It is a step up in my career, you get these little stepping stones and you reach bigger milestones and I’ve proved to myself now, as I’ve always had a little bit of self-doubt,” Impey said.
“I’ve ridden for guys who have been in this situation and it is a lot easier riding for someone else, so to come in and take the pressure for a change and have a go, I am very happy to have been able to do that.
“It’s one of the most special races of the season so I would like to come back next year and wear the number one, you don’t get too many opportunities to do that.”
The two-time Olympian pretty much sealed the victory on the penultimate stage when he finished second to Porte.
Dlamini’s performance was the cherry on top for South African cycling as the promising star from the Capricorn settlement in Muizenburg won his maiden leader’s jersey riding in his first World Tour race.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka signed Dlamini last year to ride for their World Tour team with the Capetonian rewarding them for the confidence they have shown in him.
“It has been a great week for the entire team, everyone did what they needed to,” Dlamini told the Team Dimension Data website.
“I am delighted to win my first leader’s jersey in my first World Tour race. I think I learned a lot in just one week of racing so going forward I think I will still improve a lot.
“As a team, this was a great start to our season and I feel we will also just get better as the season progresses.”