The 22-year-old Capetonian took the cycling world by storm when he won the “King of the Mountains” jersey at the Under-23 Giro d’Italia in June.
He followed up that win with strong rides while serving as a stagiaire, an amateur cyclist temporarily riding for a professional team, in the Dimension Data World Tour team at the end of last year.
While he now lives in Lucca, in the Tuscany region of Italy. Dlamini said when he visited his childhood home, he still had to abide by mom’s rules and curfews.
Dlamini is a new recruit to Dimension Data’s African Team for 2018 and his new life in Italy is a far cry from where he grew up.
Capricorn Park is a community riddled with poverty, crime and gang violence, but despite the hardships he and his family endured, Dlamini took to cycling and worked extremely hard to pursue his goal of becoming a professional rider.
In the cycling world, he’s called a “Neo Pro” which means all-rounder.
Dlamini spent two years with Dimension Data’s feeder team, based at Lucca and is now a professional and respected member of the team following his many triumphs.
“The first time I rode a bike, was when I was 12 because we could not afford a bike before,” said Dlamini.
He said cycling was his “passion” and for him it did not feel like he’s working.
“Cape Town doesn’t really have mountains,” was his reply when asked about the differences in training between Cape Town and Lucca.
Dlamini said he he had adjusted well to life in Lucca and now spoke “two-thirds Italian”.
When asked about his Tour de France ambitions, he said: “We want the whole cake, not just a piece of it”.
He also, in jest, revealed his personal goals: “You gotta set the bar high so that if you fail, you can always crawl underneath it”.
When asked if he ever got nervous or tired, he said: “When it snows, everyone feels cold”.
Dlamini is in South Africa to participate in the National Championships in Oudtshoorn from Thursday to Saturday.
He was full of praise for his mom, who he said “played the role of mother and father”.
Dlamini has a twin sister, Nikita, who lives at home with his mom, another sister Marcia Zulani, 29, and a brother Michael Zulani, 43.
Dlamini had kept his visit from his mom a surprise and only told her she needed to be home on a specific day as a parcel was being delivered.
“When I saw him, I was so happy. I am so proud of him, I don’t even know what to say,” said Gloria Zulani.
She added that Capricorn Park was a close community and whenever its favourite son returned home, “all the kids from the area come help him unpack his bags and bike”.
She added that Dlamini was a role model to the other youngsters but she still kept a firm hand on him, even when he’s in Lucca.