There’s a reason the Borzoi—a dog bred to hunt wolves—is considered one of the least obedient in the world. Yes, it’s calm, highly affectionate, holds a regal, dignified air, and is wonderful with children. Yet it’s known for a short attention span. The sight of a squirrel or cat sends the Borzoi into a mindless 40-mile-per-hour pursuit—much to the chagrin of its owners.
With that preface, we introduce you to Austin Sullivan.
If you’re tightly wound to the gravel race community—especially the long-distance set, which almost exists as its own subsector—you may have heard of Sullivan. For him, the longer the race, the better. He’s a frequent starter at the Unbound XL. This past February, he won the HuRaCaN LiTe—a 334-mile gravel bike race in central Florida that’s generally considered a mountain bike race—aboard his OBED GVR gravel bike, in a record time (the first ever under 24 hours) of 23 hours, 46 minutes. When the course goes overnight and requires midnight stops at convenience stores for Mountain Dew, Pop Tarts and other easy-access, low-cost, high-yield caloric sustenance, he’s a performer.
The whole race thing contradicts his persona. While personable, funny and friendly, he loves his alone time. No chatter. No intervals. Just road or trail ahead. It’s why he’ll decided on any given weekend to ride from Atlanta back home to Chattanooga, Tenn, taking backroads, hunting good tent spots along the way.
“Y’know, I’ve done tons of trips and rides with friends, and I enjoy it—I love camaraderie, chatting, all that,” he says. “But I really love being on my own schedule.”
Like it or not, a lot of rides end up becoming race simulations, with guys trying to kill each other,” he says with a laugh. “And that’s good—when it makes sense, like when you’re training for a ride. I’m up for that. But there’s time when I just wanna sit for five minutes and just enjoy the space I’m in, to experience my surroundings. If I want to hammer, or climb, or just stop and fill water in a creek. I love giving myself the chance to do so.”
“Not all who wander are lost.” — J.R.R. Tolkien
Of course, if the thing racing you is equine, well… all bets are off.
“I had a horse running along next to me once,” he recalls. “I was pedaling, with the horse matching my pace from across the fence, and I was like ‘these moments, they don’t happen.’ And nature is always there, ready to be seen. Whether you’re ready or not.
“I don’t know if that’s a romantic thought, but these kinds of interactions, they’re special..."