“I’m really happy. It was a phenomenal start to the season,” he told In the Bunch today.
“To start the year like this, in my first World Tour event, is a really big deal for me. I’m proud of what I did,” he said, clearly still on cloud nine.
Dlamini will compete in two more Australian events, the Melbourne Criterium and the Great Ocean road race, before returning home next week.
He described Daryl Impey‘s overall victory in the Tour Down Under as “a phenomenal achievement; for him and South Africa”.
The Dimension Data rider said the team’s primary goal from the start was to win the six-stage race, with Tom-Jelte Slagter as their general classification leader.
“We wanted to put in all the hard yards for Tom. We did get him on the podium (third), though.
“From day one, as the race went on, we broke down each stage to see what else we could win. I won the KOM [King of the Mountains jersey] on the first stage and we decided I should try to keep it, without taking the focus off Tom.”
The KOM challenges were hard work, Dlamini admitted. “I tried, every day, to make the breaks to get some points.
“The other guys never just sat back either. They were going for it, so the competition was stiff.
“We had to play our cards right, hoping it would work out for the best for the team.”
Dlamini, who had said before the tour he was hoping to step up to the next level, said the “explosiveness” of the climbs had suited him.
“That’s what I am more used to. It probably would have been a different story if the climbs were twice as long.
“The nature of the climbs favoured me. The punchier they are the better. Other guys are better on the longer climbs.”
Each of the first four stages included one King of the Mountains challenge and the last two days had two each.
“It became harder to defend my jersey as the tour went on,” Dlamini said. “At one point it was up to me whether I wanted to lose it or retain it.
“But we came out on top when it mattered and now I’m grateful that I was able to hold on.”
Dlamini, his DiData teammate Jaco Venter and Impey were the only South Africans among the 133 riders.
Talking about Impey’s victory, Dlamini said it had been great to see his compatriot win at such a high level.
“I’ve always looked up to him as an ambassador for South African cycling,” he said.