Ask most Midwesterners what they think of Illinois’ terrain, and the word you are most likely to hear is flat. After all, us Wisconsinites affectionately refer to our friends to the south as “flatlanders.”

Most of the state is covered by flat cornfields, but travel far enough south along I-57, past Marion and Carbondale, and you are likely to find the terrain—and thus the riding—starts to change

“People not from our area are always surprised by the awesome landscape and topography we have,” Dirty South Roubaix race director Shawn Moore said. “We don’t have 1000-foot-plus climbs, but the 300 to 400-foot climbs we have are steep and make you earn it. The most common comments at our events are about how beautiful the area is and how people had no idea Illinois had stuff like this.”

It is against that backdrop that the Dirty South Roubaix based out of Alto Pass takes place. This year’s event marked the third edition of the southern Illinois race, although as we will learn, the event has been taking place on a not-timed basis for nearly a decade.

Alto Pass is a small town located southwest of Carbondale, which is home to Southern Illinois University and is the largest urban center in that part of Illinois. The Dirty South Roubaix course passes through Shawnee National Forest and also along the Mississippi River floodplain. As the map shows, there are plenty of hills in Shawnee National Forest, thanks to the southern tip of Illinois escaping the wrath of the earth-scraping glaciers during the last Ice Age.

The Dirty South Roubaix is based out of Alto Pass, Illinois. photo: Google Maps

The Dirty South Roubaix is based out of Alto Pass, Illinois. photo: Google Maps

Perhaps not surprisingly, the forest is home to some great roads. “The gravel scene is really great here,” Moore said. “While it isn’t possible to ride big distances without riding some pavement here and there, there are tons of awesome gravel roads scattered throughout the region. The Shawnee National Forest has hundreds of miles of gravel scattered between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers.”

Situated near Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana, the Dirty South Roubaix now draws riders from several states. However, it started as a local ride among some friends based in the Carbondale area.

“The Dirty South rides started about 9 or 10 years ago by just a bunch of friends getting together to ride gravel roads when the trails were too muddy to ride,” Moore said. “We would post the rides ahead of time in an old school forum for our mountain bike group. The rides started growing and once we started posting to Facebook, they started growing faster.”

By that timeline, saying that the ride is in its third year is a misnomer. It started as a ride, but then because bikes—and well, dudes—it became a race.

“Some of the riders started asking for a race. I really didn’t want to deal with the logistics of a race, but once we thought it through, we thought we would go ahead and give it a shot to see what happened,” Moore said. “The first race was March of 2017. We had 98 riders sign up for the race with only 1 no show. In 2018, we had 166 riders sign up. This year, we had 265. We are very happy with the growth of our event.”

The Dirty South Roubaix featued plenty of hills and some late-winter scenery. photo: Marcus Janzow

The Dirty South Roubaix featued plenty of hills and some late-winter scenery. photo: Marcus Janzow

The Dirty South Roubaix ride is an early-March metric century. For those who do not quite have their midseason legs yet, the event also offers a 50km ride.

The 2019 route had roughly 4,000 feet of climbing, making it certainly not flat. Moore said that there are a couple parts of the course that stand out for riders, for reasons good and bad.

After the first climb, the course rolls along a Mississippi River levee. Flat, for sure. But also exposed. “The route then turns onto a levee road for approximately 10 miles,” Moore said. “The first two are paved, then the last eight are rough chunky gravel and totally exposed to wind. The levee is usually the most brutal part of the course.”

Another highlight is a more scenic and fun section. “You then hit the Trail of Tears State Park that has a great rolling gravel road through dispersed rustic camping on a ridge. People love this section. It’s a bit of a climb to get into the park, but once on top, the ridge has great little rollers and a nice fast downhill out of the park.”

As Moore mentioned, like any gravel event there are some paved sections, but for the most part, the course sticks to gravel roads. Similar to the Texas Chainring Massacre, southern Illinois offers a variety of gravel genera. “We have different types of gravel here,” Moore said. “Small limestone gravel, large limestone gravel, red river gravel through the state park and the big climb on the south end of the course and places that the gravel is packed so tight it rides like smooth asphalt.”

Itasca’s Kae Takeshita made the trip from her flatter Chicago-area home down to Alto Pass for the race. “The course had many steep climbs and some hiking trail riding, as well as some flatter pavement,” she said.

The Dirty South Roubaix course featured a lot of climbing. photo: Marcus Janzow Marcus Janzow

The Dirty South Roubaix course featured a lot of climbing. photo: Marcus Janzow Marcus Janzow

Just as southern Illinois is not like say, Chicago, topographically speaking, it is also different from much of the state weather-wise. Carbondale is much further south than St. Louis and a bit more southern than cities such as Louisville and Lexington. The temperatures are usually much warmer than those in Chicago especially during its pre-spring early March date.

Despite temperatures that were in the 60s the last two years, the weather was a bit more chilly in 2019. Although the race avoided becoming an ice skating rink like CIRREM in Iowa last weekend, temperatures still peaked in the low 40s and snow arrived as Saturday progressed.

Looking at how CIRREM went, things probably could have been a lot worse.

The Race

The Dirty South Roubaix offers several categories—Elite, Masters, Singlespeed and Tandem—for both women and men in the 100km distance. There is also a Junior category for the Half Dirty. There are small overall prizes, with the top two overall women and men getting $200 and $100 for first and second, respectively. Third place finishers get their entries covered for next year.

The top finisher for the Elite Women was Anonymous Participant. Yep, the masked rider. The mystery competitor. The known unknown.

2019 Dirty South Roubaix top five Elite Women finishers

2019 Dirty South Roubaix top five Elite Women finishers.

We did some “journalism” and learned that Anonymous Participant and Elite Women’s winner was, in fact, Kae Takeshita, the Panaracer / Factor pb/ Bicycle X-Change rider who has seemingly been everywhere on gravel roads so far this winter.

“The energy of the host and staff was warm and welcoming from the packet pick up to the start through the finish line, and they warmed us all up with hot chili loaded potato dinner,” Takeshita said about the race. “Yes, the ‘flavor’ of the race was fantastic.”

Molly Vetter-Smith of Missouri finished second, Carrie Bax of Missouri third, Rhona Ehrhardt of Oklahoma fourth and Monica Foltz put another Show-Me Stater in the top five in fifth.

Dirty South Roubaix Open Women's podium. photo: Daniel-san

Dirty South Roubaix Open Women’s podium. photo: Daniel-san

For the Men, it was the Volunteer Staters leading the way. Chase Peeler finished first and Justin Lowe second. Scott Williamson of Kansas finished third, Michael Morgan fourth and Maurice Hessel fifth.

Dirty South Roubaix Open Men's podium. photo: Don Daly

Dirty South Roubaix Open Men’s podium. photo: Don Daly

Loreen Mattson and Alice Butler were the lone tandem 100km finishers.

Results for the 100km categories are below. Also see below for a vlog from this year’s event.

Video: 2019 Dirty South Roubaix

Women's Results: 2019 Dirty South Roubaix Gravel Race

1Open WomenKae TakeshitaItascaIL03:50:22.30
2Open WomenMolly Vetter-SmithColumbiaMO04:06:04.10
3Open WomenCarrie BaxAshlandMO04:26:06.80
4Open WomenRhonda EhrhardtNormanOK04:36:28.20
5Open Womenmonica foltzCape GirardeauMO04:44:13.10
6Open WomenCourtney MorganMadisonWI04:51:22.70
7Open WomenGenna BrockLouisvilleKY04:51:23.60
8Open WomenMolly BirtWest LafayetteIN05:09:09.40
9Open WomenKatie AncellCarbondaleIL05:12:31.20
10Open WomenJillian CarrLafayetteIN05:13:14.80
11Open WomenLaura ShieldsChicagoIL05:31:40.20
12Open WomenRachel RhodesSaint LouisMO06:02:50.10
13Open WomenJenny ReedCharlotteIA06:04:28.20
14Open WomenJennifer CochranO'FallonIL06:12:48.80
15Open WomenRachael SageGrand RapidsMI06:48:21.70
16Open WomenRaquel YanezChicagoIL06:51:57.60
17Masters WomenKaren ChristensenJacksonMO06:58:01.60
18Masters WomenDebbie GardnerIndianapolisIN06:58:03.70

Men's Results: 2019 Dirty South Roubaix Gravel Race

1Open MenChase PeelerAtokaTN03:20:50.70
2Open MenJustin LoweDoverTN03:21:05.40
3Open MenScott WilliamsonLenexaKS03:31:04.20
4Open MenMichael MorganColumbiaMO03:31:52.00
5Open MenMaurice HesselBellevilleIL03:32:02.30
6Masters MenRobb FineganLincolnNE03:32:15.40
7Open MenCarson HarringtonColliervilleTN03:32:28.00
8Open MenGeorg PingenJacksonTN03:32:50.10
9Masters MenRoger WilliamsLawrenceKS03:33:29.10
10Open MenAaron FaderNormalIL03:33:38.60
11Open MenJames BourisawFentonMO03:40:47.50
12Masters MenSean OdonnellColumbusIN03:45:22.00
13Open MenRandy CoddingtonCambyIN03:45:50.70
14Masters MenDon DalyLees SummitMO03:46:24.70
15Open MenTim VollinkCape GirardeauMO03:46:28.60
16Open MenNicholas WilliamsLouisvilleKY03:50:16.40
17Open MenDerek SmithOwensboroKY03:53:37.90
18Open MenHenry PflugradtScott Air Force BaseIL03:54:58.10
19Masters MenChris DanielsBloomingtonIL03:56:10.10
20Open MenChristopher AdamsAtokaTN03:56:18.50
21Singlespeed MenAaron ArnzenCape GirardeauMO03:57:14.60
22Open MenKyle LockhauseChampaignIL03:57:32.60
23Masters MenLarry LenneIndianapolisIN03:58:25.00
24Open MenRobert ColomboMattoonIL03:58:58.70
25Open MenAaron SmithChicagoIL03:59:12.60
26Open MenRobert BerryMilwaukeeWI03:59:21.60
27Masters MenTim TaylorLEXINGTONTN03:59:56.20
28Open MenBrad DashBataviaIL04:00:57.40
29Masters MenDon HinkebeinCape GirardeauMO04:01:06.10
30Masters MenKevin BohanonPaducahKY04:01:19.20
31Open MenJohn EhrhardtNormanOK04:01:33.10
32Singlespeed MenJustin McBrideRochelleIL04:01:56.10
33Open MenMichael SchieboutJacksonTN04:02:11.00
34Open MenPatrick AndreHumboldtTN04:02:12.10
35Open MenBrian StephensCordovaTN04:02:35.00
36Open MenKent WoermannLees SummitMO04:02:39.50
37Open MenRob BonnerMemphisTN04:03:27.20
38Masters MenMichael FahyGermantownTN04:04:11.70
39Singlespeed MenJoe KleidostyBasehorKS04:04:48.80
40Open MenMichael VailWestmontIL04:05:31.90
41Singlespeed MenKevin ClarkLouisvilleKY04:07:10.00
42Open MenJason AckersonLafayetteIN04:07:20.30
43Masters MenMike HenryWhitestownIN04:07:28.40
44Open MenJEFFREY BLACKSaint LouisMO04:08:13.40
45Masters MenGreg VaughtKansas CityKS04:09:25.10
46Open MenEric GadlageJasperIN04:09:41.80
47Masters MenEric LovinsJasperIN04:09:42.90
48Open MenBenjamin SterrettHeyworthIL04:09:46.00
49Open MenPatrick CowlinChicagoIL04:10:57.80
50Open MenWayne BrownMount VernonIL04:11:44.00
51Masters MenMatt CurryCarmelIN04:16:30.40
52Open MenThomas WallaceNormalIL04:17:02.00
53Open Menkenneth deloSomonaukIL04:18:22.80
54Masters MenDana BraetClaytonMO04:19:01.20
55Open MenBlake GerardCape GirardeauMO04:19:20.60
56Open MenZach AndrewsIndianapolisIN04:20:21.60
57Masters MenAnonymous ParticipantOwensboroKY04:20:37.10
58Masters MenJoel HarbaughTerre HauteIN04:20:55.40
59Open MenChad BriggsWest DundeeIL04:25:19.80
60Open MenJason HartmanManchesterMO04:25:27.00
61Open MenJosh BommeljeCarbondaleIL04:27:15.60
62Open MenBenjamin AndersonIowa CityIA04:27:45.90
63Open MenFrederick DerocherMilwaukeeWI04:27:47.10
64Masters MenErik BorgnesStevens PointWI04:28:34.10
65Masters MenRobert BrooksIndianapolisIN04:28:54.80
66Open MenSean LeslieColumbusIN04:29:05.20
67Open MenShon HargisChristopherIL04:30:11.80
68Open MenKelly ShurillaMilwaukeeWI04:32:29.50
69Open MenRyan LipskiHubertusWI04:32:31.70
70Open MenGeoffrey HardingChicagoIL04:33:12.10
71Open MenCaleb FritzBattle GroundIN04:34:17.30
72Open MenStephen GarrettChicagoIL04:34:18.10
73Open MenDan LangWashingtonIL04:35:18.20
74Open MenToan TranMount ProspectIL04:35:19.20
75Open MenAleksei KochinMount VernonIL04:36:01.40
76Masters MenRay HowardHumboldtTN04:37:17.90
77Open MenDavid BowerNashvilleIN04:38:10.40
78Masters MenBrandon McMahanAlgonquinIL04:38:28.40
79Open MenTommy Van AschBellevilleIL04:38:30.30
80Open MenDarren VaughnMurrayKY04:38:37.30
81Open MenBrian EwingCollinsvilleIL04:38:40.30
82Open MenRob RichesonSellersburgIN04:39:24.50
83Open MenJoshua HopkinsTerre HauteIN04:41:59.70
84Open MenMichael HerrTremontIL04:42:14.60
85Masters MenGene McdowelldanvilleIL04:44:04.00
86Open MenDerek MantylaIndianapolisIN04:51:25.50
87Masters MenJerry WestPlainfieldIN04:52:30.30
88Open MenChris OrrLake OzarkMO04:55:36.00
89Masters MenButch MoorsEvansvilleIN04:57:10.00
90Open MenNick EkstromSheridanIN04:58:06.00
91Open MenRyan ThompsonGorevilleIL05:00:47.40
92Open MenDavid TreeceColumbiaMO05:02:38.80
93Open MenDanial KnoxWaukeganIL05:07:19.10
94Open MenCraig EngstromCarbondaleIL05:08:56.80
95Masters MenGene GrossDu QuoinIL05:12:27.50
96Masters MenJohn LindtCarbondaleIL05:13:15.60
97Open MenAaron KinkelaarPaducahKY05:13:17.60
98Open MenMark PetersonJolietIL05:14:15.40
99Open MenDavid VuurmanPlainfieldIN05:15:09.70
100Open MenJustin PolPaducahKY05:19:05.60
101Open MenMichael NorrisHerrinIL05:19:07.40
102Masters MenDavid LewisWentzvilleMO05:20:49.60
103Open MenRyan SampleSaint LouisMO05:22:28.40
104Masters MenScott AssmannPalatineIL05:23:04.00
105Open MenAlex OgburnCape GirardeauMO05:23:21.70
106Masters MenJames HertzFrankfortIL05:23:35.90
107Open MenRichard SchultheisOttawaKS05:23:41.90
108Open MenJohn WilliamsWaterlooIL05:25:01.30
109Open MenJames BeckerLafayettenIN05:25:34.00
110Masters MenTim EtchesonLexingtonSC05:27:42.30
111Singlespeed MenNick MohlerPaducahKY05:30:42.30
112Masters Mentodd nixOwensboroKY05:30:44.30
113Open MenStu GarwickBelvidereIL05:30:55.30
114Open MenM. GarwickBelvidereIL05:31:09.00
115Singlespeed MenJacob HueberRochelleIL05:31:44.80
116Open MenGreg BERRYStreamwoodIL05:36:07.90
117Masters MenMike KeithlySaint CharlesMO05:41:01.10
118Open MenPatrick WoodTerre HauteIN05:42:30.60
119Masters MenSteve SchrollChathamIL05:46:21.50
120Open MenDavid WillisEllisvilleMO05:47:15.40
121Open MenMike NicholsPalatineIL05:47:57.00
122Open MenBryan LemonBowling GreenKY05:50:53.60
123Open MenGreg KeithlyChesterfieldMO05:53:36.40
124Open MenDavid OConnorSaint LouisMO05:53:37.10
125Masters MenRick KrapelsArlingtonTN05:56:46.50
126Open MenMichael WhitehairMolineIL05:58:34.20
127Open MenKyle MurphyChattanoogaTN05:58:42.50
128Open MenJeffrey FoxChampaignIL05:58:44.20
129Masters MenBrad KnousEldridgeIA06:04:29.70
130Open MenChris SiefertMount VernonIL06:04:48.20
131Masters MenTom GardnerIndianapolisIN06:06:49.50
132Open MenRodney CochranO FallonIL06:11:55.80
133Open MenGeoff CardinO FallonIL06:12:49.90
134Open MenTerry BarnesBellevilleIL06:12:50.70
135Open MenThomas WelgeChesterIL06:16:22.00
136Open MenDexter TravisTremontIL06:21:31.50
137Open MenDoug UrbaniakMackinawIL06:21:33.40
138Open MenBEN SCHLIPFTremontIL06:21:38.20
139Masters MenDaniel BarrCountry Club HillsIL06:22:01.30
140Open Menjoseph snyderMurrayKY06:40:24.70
141Open MenAlex RobertsonChicagoIL06:51:56.60
142Open MenChris KotySaint LouisMO06:52:26.90
143Open MenBrian ForseeSt. LouisMO06:52:28.90
144Singlespeed MenTravis FinanSaint LouisMO06:53:14.20
145Open MenNick LittleLelandIL06:57:55.80
146Open MenJoe ToneyPiedmontMO07:14:39.00
147Open MenJonathan EadsPoplar BluffMO07:14:41.20
148Open MenAnson MoranChicagoIL07:16:44.40
149Masters MenJeff BallantyneAshleyIL07:37:07.70