Monday, April 29, 2013

The curious case of Dayer Quintana. How and why Nairo Quintana's brother went from racing his bike, to unwillingly becoming a police officer

Dayer Quintana (Photo: Nuestro Ciclismo)

Like Nairo Quintana, his brother Dayer (on Twitter here) grew up in Boyaca, a cycling-rich department of Colombia, northeast of Bogota. Like Nairo, Dayer also knew next to nothing about cycling growing up. Riding a bike, for him, was a simple necessity.

Financial realities were tough for the Quintana family, but their fighting and industrious spirit persevered. The two siblings learned to drive a car early on, at only ten years of age or so, in order to make a living. This is something they learned from their older brother, who also began driving taxis at night around that age, in order to make a living while not being spotted driving by the authorities. This, I would argue, is exemplary of the Colombian spirit, and a certain saying that is common throughout the country: pa'lante, an informal compression of the words "para adelante", which mean moving forward, or always looking on and forging ahead despite obstacles.

At any rate, these days, Nairo's brother Dayer is 20 years old. Having seen his brother's success from early on, he's wanted to follow in Nairo's footsteps. Like his brother, Dayer is a climber, and at 128 pounds (58 kilos), 5'5" (167 cms), he's ideally suited for the task. But this is where things get rather interesting.

In order to help his young brother a couple of years back, Nairo worked to create a U23 squad in his local department, for the riders that the state-sponsored team in their region hadn't picked. To do so, Nairo secured sponsorship from the local police, in order to make sure that the riders would have some pay, as well as food and altitude training covered. In order to do this, riders had to sign up to be police officers, on paper, in order to draw their salary through their sponsor. Though unusual, the matter appeared to be merely administrative.

Dayer, wearing the kit for the team sponsored by the National Police (Photo: Nuestro Ciclismo)

While this arrangement was made with a General in the police, eventually there was "an issue with politicians" according to Nairo, and the team's riders were made to actually serve as police officers, though they didn't want to, and never intended to. They were, in a sense, conscripted to serve. That included Dayer, who served as an officer for 18 months, "patrolling the streets, in boots and full uniform" according to Nairo's account.

Luckily for Dayer, his brother's connections within local government (his friend had been mayor of Tunja) came in handy, and Dayer was allowed to leave the force just recently. Not so for the other riders in the team.

During Dayer's 18 months in the force, he was not allowed to race or train, thus loosing a full season in the sport. He's just now back on the bike, and with Nairo's help has signed on with an amateur squad in Spain for the season. Curiously enough, Dayer's Facebook page still lists the National Police as his employer.

It's perhaps because of this type of circumstance, that novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once rightfully said that as a Colombian, he's had to ask very little of his imagination. Such is our reality.

"Poets and beggars, musicians and prophets, warriors and scoundrels, all creatures of that unbridled reality, we have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable. This, my friends, is the crux of our solitude."

– Gabriel García Márquez

Thanks to Mike Spriggs for pointing this article out to me, which came to him via Jen See.


  1. I like the wry allusion to Benjamin Button, although this Quintana brother appears to be aging normally.

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  3. As Johnny Rotten once said "ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"

    Boy taxi drivers? That sounds like a fascinating story in itself, albeit a non cycling one. I now have visions of hundreds of "Short Rounds" ferrying folk around Colombia with blocks of wood on their feet to reach the pedals of their cars.

    Thanks for another thought provoking post Klaus.


  4. Never commented on your site before. The stories are fantastic, the photos great, I remember Watching Lucho when I was a kid and having some hope for my sporting future. Not that I am a Colombian (Irish,lebanese,english,spanish,American) it had more to do with being small, skinny and poor. The resurgence of Colombian cycling gives me hope once again. Bravo!

  5. Nairo sounds like he could be a business tycoon in addition to a world class cyclist. Good Lord, driving around at 10 years of age. I can hardly imagine it! I'll bet there are tons more stories about Nairo and I hope you will publish them here. Thanks for a great blog. (Oh, and I'll have to start reading Gabriel García Márquez! Never knew he was Colombian. I'm Canadian and had not known much about Colombia until I started following cycling).

  6. Thanks for the information that your bring to light to the world. I have enjoyed your fairness and detail of your stories supported by facts. Tenemos un campeon! and that makes us very prou. As you say very typically of colombians living an ordinary is inordinacy we all strive to live extraordinary lives. Being poor or brushed with poverty, seeing it on the other side pof the street the river (in my case I was in the poor side) makes us creative and have big dreams. Little by little those dreams do materialize as have been the case for this amazing kid. My father was a cyclist only because he rode his bike to the sugar plantations. As a child I grew up seeing him competing to later see my cousin Jairo Meneses bring great winnings for our country Colombia.

  7. Nubia,
    Mil gracias. Thank you for the very kind words. I try, very very hard to be fair. To speak the truth about Colombia, while not hiding anything. When you do this, as I try to, there are those who will say that we're showing a negative side. But how can others understand Colombia if they don't get the full picture?

  8. I used to drive my dads car and parked outside the house when i was about 12 yrs old.

  9. For athletes to be employed by police/army is more common than you might think. At least in some former communist countries. In the case of Slovenia, Jure Robic was employed by the army while winning the RAAM year after year.
    I think it serves as a way for the state to finance athletes without having to build some sort of programme for it.

  10. Como siempre sensacional Klaus.

    Estas historias parecen increíbles para los lectores foráneos, pero para nosotros, no parece más que una historia cotidiana.

    De igual forma sorprende que no exista (o yo por lo menos no he podido encontrar), un video de la victoria de Dayer. Un triunfo, que al ser el primero, pasará a la historia.

    Por último, como dice Rendell, Ud. es el mejor escritor -o contador- de historias de nuestro ciclismo. Ojalá que algún día se anime a publicar estas historias en español,y no escribo esto porque le tenga bronca al inglés, sino simplemente, porque es un idioma que no domino, y si bien siempre hago el esfuerzo de leer sus artículos, muchas veces siento que me estoy perdiendo de algo, o simplemente no entiendo el sentido de algunas frases.

    Sin ser más, muchas gracias, y una vez más felicitaciones.


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