Natchez native cycles for athleticism output

Published 1:26 am Sunday, October 11, 2009

NATCHEZ — When Ty Sullivan was a high school student at Adams County Christian School, athletic involvement was a frustrating thing for him.

Sullivan said he felt like he was athletic, but he couldn’t express that athleticism due to working constraints.

Sullivan had a job at the auto accessories store, the Toy Shop, from his sophomore through senior years of high school.

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“I started off playing football in junior high, but I needed to work (when I got to high school) and I couldn’t do athletics because of that,” Sullivan said.

Stan Smith, a musician in the local cover band Black Bayou, offered him a solution to that problem: cycling.

“I knew Stan was into cycling and I approached him and wanted to gain knowledge to get into cycling,” Sullvian said.

Sullivan said cycling offered him a chance to build experience in a sport during his own free time instead of having a set practice schedule during the week like most organized sports. He is now a senior at the University of Southern Miss, and has been biking since his junior year of high school.

In addition to Smith, Sullivan also credits Tommy Graves as being a major influence in getting him into the sport.

“He’s a local who’s big into cycling,” Sullivan said. “He helped push me. He loaned all his bikes and equipment to me and sent me down to my first time trial and road race in Baton Rogue.”

During his sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, Sullivan was heavily involved in the Natchez Bicycle Club.

“The biking club is a great way for people to take advantage of the Natchez scene,” Sullivan said. “It got me involved with more experienced riders, who took me out on the road and introduced me to more serious cycling.

When Sullivan got to college, he was able to find a similar biking club in Hattiesburg, where Sullivan said he could take the knowledge he gained from Natchez.

Sullivan’s opinion of Natchez as a biking town is one shared by a lot of people in the bicycle club, he said.

“Natchez is a great area for cycling, due to the great roads we have and the Natchez Trace,” Sullivan said. “Allen Richard (of the Natchez Bicycle Club) is pushing to get bike lanes through downtown.”

This past Labor Day, Sullivan competed in a criterium race in St. Louis. Sullivan said the experience was one of the most worthwhile he’s ever been a part of.

“A criterium race is a short-course race which takes a shorter period of time to complete,” Sullivan said. “The race I went to in St. Louis was the Labor Day Weekend Gateway Cup, which took place Friday through Monday of Labor Day (Sept. 4 – 7).”

Sullivan’s best finish in the four-day event was fifth out of 150 in the Sunday, Sept. 6 race. In addition to the performance, getting the chance to meet the 2009 USA Cycling pro road champion George Hincapie was inspiring, Sullivan said.

“He told me to stick with cycling no matter how you perform, because you can always get better,” Sullivan said.

“He and his team told me to keep coming to big races, because the bigger the race, the more people you’re subjected to, which means you’ll get faster and more experienced.”

Sullivan majors in construction engineering at USM and is on pace to gradate spring 2010. After college, he’s looking into working along the M.G.Dice gas pipeline.

Sullivan wanted to extend thanks to the Natchez Bike Shop for helping sponsor him.