For the last two years The Athletic Community has supported the Portland State University cycling team. Students who are willing give up their weekends to travel and race in support of their school deserve to be celebrated and a little something extra. How about some super cool socks in their school colors? Yes, definitely. This year we created La Cubiste socks in PSU blue and green to help the team stand out from the rest of the pack. After a few wins of the northwest conference and some visits to nationals, including this years worlds course, we thought it was a good time to check in with the team. For this we got ahold of Ahmed Zuhairy, local bad boy, racer and recent graduate. He gives the scoop on what it’s like to race collegiate cycling, what’s good road food and his pick for the World Championship Road Race this September.
ATHL: Before we get into it who are you? What’s your title?
AZ: I’m the Men’s Team Captain for PSU. I help organize and lead a lot of the Saturday rides, talk to the other riders on the team about where they are and how they are feeling about the season, talk about strategy and who does what but essentially that gets left up to each category because they know who’s there and know their strengths. I try to be a guiding light as much as possible.
How long have you been riding with the PSU team?
I’m a sixth year senior so I’ve done 5 collegiate seasons. There may have been one season where I only did the first race though because I crashed out. I paid team dues for 5 years.
Can you explain collegiate racing? How it works and how it compares to our Oregon Bicycle Racing Association system.
Collegiate racing is different from OBRA because it is one block of a season. It's not spread out over such a long time. For example six weeks of collegiate, every weekend. Each weekend is an omnium, so you know you know what you’re going into, road race, time trial and criterium. It's exhausting. As far as competitiveness goes you get many more smiling faces in collegiate. A huge percentage of the people during collegiate season are just doing it for fun, there is a competitive side for them but at the end of day the just want to eat food and hang out.
How has PSU done the last couple years?
We won the previous two years because we had a decent A squad, decent B squad and a really strong women’s A squad. We had people all over the map doing well.
Which school is PSU’s biggest competition?
I would say, when I first started racing it was University of Washington Huskies. They were running the show, there were a bunch of guys who now race pro domestically. Every year they just raked in the points. Lately our competition has been Western Washington. The thing about collegiate cycling is that it changes so dramatically every year which teams are strong. A bunch of people will graduate or someone didn’t really care to recruit and all of a sudden that school is off the radar. It's hard to get people to wake up at 6:00am, put on spandex, and ride in 55 degrees and drizzling weather.
What’s team transportation like this year?
Super cool Town & Country Chrysler minivans. They are legit and super comfy. Stow and go capabilities. 6 people per van. This one girl would pass out every time we got in the van. She would just pass out no matter what was going on and just sleep all the way till we got to our destination. It was VERY impressive.
Which gas station has the best gas station coffee?
It all sucks. The best thing to get a gas station is the Starbucks Frappuccino things or double shots. That's going to be your best option.
What else are you grabbing from that gas station?
Chips. This year people were buying the Hawaiian chips. You know those ones that are a little bit sweet and salty? Super bomb. People were stoked. Usually trail mix because you want to try and stay healthy, although trail mix isn’t all that healthy when you’re slamming it and sitting in a car for 6 hours.
Last year's collegiate nationals course is this years Worlds course right?
Our race was basically a tester. I think the course we rode is identical to the one planned for Worlds. Don’t quote me on that. We should double check. I’m pretty confident, like 95% sure. Definitely the best road race course I’ve ever been on.
Having raced the 95% positive World's course where do you think would be a good place to attack?
There is a cobbled climb. It's a short climb with two or three switchbacks. There is a nice path on the right side of road but not everybody is going to be able to use that. People could potentially get flats by riding right on the cobbles.
What type of rider do you think will ride away with the rainbow stripes?
This is going to be a sprinters course. The hardest climb is short and steep. I ultimately think that because the hills aren’t that bad the peloton isn’t going to be able to drop the huge dudes. It is going to be someone larger like a power person.
Who would be your pick?
Well after watching Peter Sagan win the Tour of California and climbing Mt. Baldy like some sort of animal, I wouldn't be surprised if he has a good shot.
Final advice for the pros?
Take that line on the cobbled climb. I don’t know, pros are just so much more advanced than I am, my advice wouldn’t mean much. Stay hydrated, get pantyhose filled with ice.
What’s your favorite color?
Oh Jeez, I hate this question. Right now it’s probably grey or white. Spring colors plus grey.