The race suited the climbers. It comprised a 10km lap completed 16-and-a-half times. Each lap contained a punchy and challenging climb, which increasingly wore down the riders as the race progressed.
Riders also had to tackle the infamous Tom Jenkins climb on the last lap before the final drag to the finish.
Dimension Data’s Dlamini formed part of a decisive breakaway towards the end of the 162km race alongside ProTouch’s Jayde Julius.
Dlamini managed to drop Julius on the climb during the second-last lap.
The Cape Town local said it was his depth of ability that enabled him to drop Julius when they were in the break.
“I know Jayde and some of his strengths and weaknesses and I knew I could get rid of him on the climb. But it was good to be in the breakaway with him,” Dlamini told In the Bunch today.
Many supporters, viewers as well as the race commentator were almost convinced Dlamini would clinch his first national title, while his teammates tried their best to police Daryl Impey from the back.
However, Impey struck late to surge ahead of Dlamini and subsequently defend his national crown.
Dlamini ended up fifth, finishing just under a minute behind Impey.
While disappointed with the outcome, Dlamini showed many, including himself, what he was capable of.
“I’m still gutted, to be honest. I really wanted to win the title badly this year because the course suited me well.
“I really thought I’d come right, but there’s always another day and many other years to still try and win the title.”
“I almost thought I had it in the bag with 50km still to go that it could work [out], but then I knew it was basically game over when I saw the other guys sneaking up from behind [towards the end].
“My goal is always to be the best I can be and try being as consistent as possible. Do that then the results will follow while going into every race with the right mindset.”
Given the nature of the course profile, the 23-year-old said he also realised the importance of riding smartly.
But he admitted Impey was simply too good on the day and Ryan Gibbons and Stefan de Bod were unable to close in on him after he went up the road. Gibbons and De Bod finished second and third respectively.
Overall, Dlamini was impressed by the local competition at the national champs.
“The level in SA has definitely gone up and I was happy to see that. It was really nice to stand at the start line knowing the race was going to be hard.
“The guys were very strong and cycling is definitely growing in SA.”
The DiData rider will next focus on the seven-stage Volta a Catalunya in Spain from March 25 to 31.
His goal race for the season will be the eight-day Criterium du Dauphine in France from June 9 to 16.
“I’d really like to be at my best form and get the best possible result out of that,” he said.