Van Niekerk had a highly successful season with French-based amateur team Sud Ouest Cycliste Formation-Team Christian Magimel. As a result he managed to receive the recognition he was seeking.
“It was my dream since I started cycling to come to France and make it into a fast and professional team,” Van Niekerk told In the Bunch today.
“It gives me goose bumps just thinking about it. It felt a bit unreal when I put my new jersey on the other day. It’s an amazing feeling.
“I’m very excited about the new challenge ahead. I will be working hard so that I can progress even more; the dream is going to start now.”
The 23-year-old initially received recognition from one of the senior members of the team, Romain Feillu, 34, who was a yellow jersey wearer in the 2008 Tour de France.
“Due to my results [this season] I got invited to take part in a professional criterium which is where I got into contact with Romain,” Van Niekerk said.
“From there I went training with him once or twice and he told me that he liked my attitude and that I have a good engine. He then said he wanted to do anything to get me into the team.
“That’s basically how it all started and I’m grateful that it all worked out. It meant a lot that someone like him believed in me and took me under his wing.”
Van Niekerk said another objective he wanted to implement while racing in Europe was to help other promising South African cyclists get a chance to get a foot in the door.
“If you don’t have the contacts to come overseas then it will be very difficult,” he said.
“When things started going really well for me in terms of the races, my former director asked me if there were any other South Africans who would like to come overseas.
“I then thought of Bradley, because he’s a good talent and a strong finisher,” Van Niekerk said, adding that the team anticipated at the time that he would be moving on to a bigger set-up next year.