From cyclist to police officer and back again. An interview with Dayer Quintana

To many, he will always be Nairo's younger brother. Dayer Quintana knows that, and jokes that there are far worse things to be in the world. Now in his third year with Movistar, the native of Boyaca, is trying to leave his own mark in the sport. I talked to Dayer for an interview that will run in an upcoming issue of ProCycling. What follows are additional questions I asked, in great part because of curiosity I had about certain topics. Namely, current issues within Colombian cycling, people taking credit for his victories, but also how he ended up as a police officer after joining a team in Colombia.


I feel foolish asking this question so often of Colombian professionals, as it seems like a dated topic. But every time I think it has passed, it comes up again. Have you, as a Colombian, experienced any type of discrimination or had any unusual moments within the European peloton? Your brother reported having problems and a physical confrontation at the Tour de l'Avenir that he won. These types of things date back to early Cafe de Colombia, and events that Andy Hampsten said he saw firsthand. Have you experienced anything like that?
I'll say this: at first, those things happened, yes. And historically, I guess riders here didn’t know what to make of us. They weren’t used to Colombians. Whether it happened the easy way, or the hard way, we now command respect. Slowly, riders here have learned that Colombians as a people are not how the press may portray us. We are not uncivilized, we’re not monkeys who live on trees. We are people, humans. And I think once they see that, and our abilities on the bike, the issue begins to dissipate. 

I think I could fill up a stadium with the people who claim to have given you or your brother you first bike. Everyone claims to have helped you with this or that early on. It seems like an amazingly Colombian thing to do, to take credit for the success of riders once they are in Europe winning races. Politicians are particularly guilty of this, wanting to appropriate sporting success and taking cred it for it. How does that feel?
Unfortunately, I know exactly what you are referring to. And it’s always existed in Colombia. People are opportunists. For example, many people claim to be related to me and my brother. But I don’t even know who they are. People I’ve never met, are suddenly are going around town saying they are my family, or that they are my best friends, and that they helped me along the way. But believe me, my brother and I know who actually helped us when we were starting out. We know who are friends and family are, and we keep them close, and never forget about them for a minute. To anyone that claims to have helped me or my brother, and yet I’ve never seen them in my life, I would tell them to prove it. 

Colombia now has an impressive and well-documented history in the sport. This is a sign that there’s a real passion and understand of cycling there, as well as a support structure in place for young cyclists. And yet, it would appear that more could be done in terms of race organization, and team management and stability. What do you see as the primary problem that Colombian cycling faces today?
Most cycling projects are supported by and dependent on politicians, not the private sector. At first, it would appear that the government backing cycling projects is a positive thing, but it gets complicated quickly, due to political rivalries. So if you are friendly with one politician, but his rival is supporting a team, you wont be able to get on that team. If you race for a team supported by one politician, but his rival gets into office, he’ll end the project because it was started by this other politician. That’s exactly what happened to me with the team I raced in, which was backed by the local police department.

What happened with that team?
The problem was that Nairo was friends with the future mayor of Tunja [the capital city in the province of Boyacá where Nairo currently lives, population 145,000]. His rivals wanted to end the team, because Nairo had helped start it with the (future) mayor. And that was enough to put a stop to it.

The way that team ended was unusual. Not just for the reasons you explained, but also because the team ending led to you become a police officer. How did that happen?
The main U23 race in Colombia was about to happen, and I didn’t have a team. Nairo talked to his friend who was a politician, and he was interested in starting a team. I went on to the race with that team, and finished eight in the GC. Based on those results, Nairo wanted to continue the project, and we also got the support of General Palomino, from the National Police. The way it was structured was interesting, and revolved around the fact that in Colombia, there’s compulsory military service. Due to our age, and the support of the National Police, it was arranged that we would be completing our military service as cyclists, representing the armed forces nationally and even internationally. So our riding was in fact our service to the military.

But since Nairo was friends with this one politician, his rivals decided end the team after only three months. They convinced the General that the team had to end, and that was it.

And that meant you still had to serve military service?
Yes. As you know, in Colombia, you have to serve for 18 months. So I had to serve out the remainder as an auxiliary officer, patrolling the streets. And then went back to being a cyclist. At any rate, that’s the kind of thing that would have to change in Colombia. The sport is so tied in to the government and thus to politicians, that this type of thing can happen.

What’s your current living situation in Europe?
I live alone in Pamplona. Several other professionals live nearby. Carlos Betancur lives nearby so do Sebastian and Sergio Henao. Vasili Kiryienka lives there, and many others are around.

Nairo used to live in Pamplona, but now lives in Monaco. Would you consider living with him, or is it best to have your separate lives, since you're already do the same thing for a living while racing on the same team as well?
I would like to live with him, for sure. We’ve talked about it, and after all, it would be best to be with family when you're all the way over here in Europe. I think we'll do that in the future.


Marginalia

1.
Much has been made about Carlos Betancur's problems in the past, as well as his apparent return to form (physically and mentally) this year. Cycling aside, I certainly hope it's true for his own sake, and that of his family. It's interesting to point out, however, that even his team seems surprised when he shows up to something. Consider the Tweet below from Movistar, which states:

"The team had it's first training session around Arnhame, Carlos Betancur, PRESENT!"

Seriously, think about that. You show up to work, and your team tweets it out in all CAPS! You could say that the tweet came about due to him not being originally scheduled to do the race, but all I can think of is that old Chris Rock joke. "You're supposed to show up, what do you want, a cookie?"

Also, have you noticed Betancur's quads as of late?

2.
Remember when this blog used to be called Cycling Inquisition and I got jerseys made? Well, those jerseys are still out there, being raced in Europe no less, and worn to amazing victories...I'm sure.