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Nicholas Dlamini will headline the Team Qhubeka Continental squad in 2022.
The 26-year-old, like many other riders, was left without a contract for this year when the Qhubeka-NextHash team folded at the end of last season.
While the WorldTour team had to shut up shop following a fruitless search for sponsors, it was able to maintain its development squad. Dlamini is one of 14 riders that has been named to the Continental team, which includes riders from across Africa and Italy.
“I am really excited to stay with Team Qhubeka as the team means an enormous amount to me and is a part of my DNA. To continue to support the Qhubeka Charity in racing for a purpose is completely unique across not only cycling, but all sport,” Dlamini said.
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Dlamini rode the Tour de France with the Qhubeka-NextHash last year, becoming the first Black South African to do so. However, he was one of seven riders to miss the time cut on the brutal stage 9 — finishing nearly 90 minutes behind the day’s winner — after crashing heavily during the stage.
Despite being forced to drop down to Continental level for 2022, which means he is unable to ride any grand tours, Dlamini is keen to get back to the Tour de France and have another go. This year, his goals will be a little different as he tries to use his recent experience to help the younger riders.
“The team has given me personal opportunities including being able to fulfill my childhood dream and to ride at the Tour de France,” he said. “This year I will fill a mentorship role to the under 23 riders in the squad. Having moved through the ranks and now being able to mentor the youngsters in the team and show them the ropes, will be extremely fulfilling for me.
“Regarding the Tour de France, there is unfinished business, and I would love to go back to the Tour to finish what I started; I still have a lot of years ahead of me to race my bike and to achieve my dreams and goals.”
Joining Dlamini on the team’s roster are: Renus Uhiriwe (Rwanda), Negasi Abreha (Ethiopia), Ghebrehiwet Birhane (Eritrea), Kevin Bonaldo (Italy), Mattia Guasco (Italy), Luca Coati (Italy), Travis Stedman (South Africa), Nahom Zeray Araya (Eritrea), Efrem Gebrehiwet Araya (Eritrea), Jacopo Menghotto (Italy), Nicolo Parisini (Italy), Raffaele Mosca (Italy), Alessandro Iacchi (Italy).
“Every year we start the season excited to realize the potential of our African riders. They usually come to our attention through word of mouth or because of one standout performance,” team manager Kevin Campbell said. “While not every rider from our team has moved onto a professional team, we are encouraged by the fact that we have also unearthed superbly talented riders that have gone on to perform at a world-class level.
“We are the flag-bearers for the African continent at many events within Italy and around Europe, and we want to continue to showcase the richness of talent that can be found in Africa, talent that is deserving of opportunities to compete against the best cyclists in the world.”