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.