The 2024 Dirty South Roubaix Recap

I did the Dirty South Roubaix this year for the first time.

This is my race recap of what I experienced and what my overall thoughts of the race were.

A Roubaix (pronounced Roo Bay) is a mix of mud, dirty, paved, and mixed road surfaces. While the Dirty South mainly focuses on gravel and dirt terrain, there are some paved roads mixed in.

Gravel biking isn’t exactly new, but it’s becoming more popular. It’s like road biking but with mixed terrain and bikes and tires capable of riding practically anywhere.

Imagine having a road bike and a mountain bike all in one.

Gravel racing is also becoming more and more popular.

The Dirty South Roubaix has been going on for a few years. Each year, the number of riders increases. This year, there were around 750 riders. Only a few hundred people live in Alto Pass, Illinois, but the town loves the race.

Alto Pass might be in line to be the Gravel HQ of Southern Illinois. There is great gravel in that area. The town should really market itself as that.

I participated in the ride and finished, not to win anything. But some riders are competitive and it’s a fun race to compete in.

There is a 100K, Single Speed 100K, and Tandem 100K section. Awards are given to winners in the form of trophies. There is also a 60K which is what I did since it was my first time.

If you decide you want to do it next year, make sure you register early. It fills up fast, and you won’t get a spot if you wait too long.

These wonderful photos were taken by Colson Photography.

Preparing for the Dirty South Roubaix

I started as a cyclist long before I started hiking.

Over the years, I’ve been getting out of cycling more and more. It saddens me that this is happening. So, in an effort to save my cycling interests, I bought a gravel bike: a 2024 Trek Checkpoint 5 with an aluminum frame and AXS shifting.

The main reason I bought the bike is because it’s great for Tunnel Hill State Trail and I want to start going bikepacking.

But the Dirty South Roubaix was also a reason I got it. I signed up with the intention of using my old heavy mountain bike (Trek Marlin 29er). The Bike Surgeon of Southern Illinois suggested I get a gravel bike, which I did, and I really looked forward to the race. Racing is giving me a little competition to get more into cycling like I used to.

Don’t worry. I’m still very much a hiker and that isn’t stopping or decreasing, haha.

As for training for the Dirty South, I rode the Tunnel Hill Trail a few days a week, doing 20- and 40-mile rides. But I failed to train on hills, which is what I should have done. I’m bad at training for rides, and I need to improve in that area.

As for mental preparation and strategy, I just had the goal of finishing and not finishing last.


Dirty South Roubaix Race Day

We live near Metropolis, and Alto Pass is quite a ways away. To eat breakfast and make it to the event in time, we would have had to get up pretty early.

So, we stayed at Giant City State Park instead, in the historical cabins. I’ll write a whole different article about that review soon.

We ate at IHOP in Carbondale since it was quick. The Giant City Lodge didn’t open soon enough, or we would have eaten there.

Once we were done eating, I drove us to Alto, and Michelle took my truck for the day. Parking is crazy on race day. Most people park at churches. Carpool if you can or get dropped off; otherwise, it will be hard to find a spot.

The atmosphere at the event was pretty fun. Cyclists all over the place. I saw a lot of people I knew and met a lot of people I didn’t know. I enjoyed meeting Aaron from Mixed SOIL, talking to the race directors, and meeting Paul Suchecki again, who made an awesome video for the race event.

It was pretty foggy at the start, but it all broke up pretty much right as we began the race.

The course (60K) was basically a figure eight. It started in Alto Pass, crossed 127 (with state police blocking the roads), and went towards Bald Knob Cross. We finally hit a gravel road on Hutchins Creek Road. We also hit Scatters Road with some more gravel.

Some of the gravel was pretty squirrely to bike on, even with a gravel bike, but I made it.

Pine Hills was the first real obstacle. I had to hike a bike there because I didn’t train for it. Going downhill was great.

We hit Trail of Tears and Beach Grove roads on pavement for a while. Then, onto Rhine Road, which was back to gravel.

We eventually crossed 127 again with no police blocking. It was a short ride to a gravel road straight UP to Alto Pass.

I started the ride wearing my thermal jersey, thermal bib shorts, leg warmers, and a windbreaker cycling jacket. I took the jacket off on top of Pine Hills, where there was an unofficial SAG stop with beer—I didn’t drink a beer, LOL. I took the leg warmers off at Beach Grove Road, where there was a SAG stop. I was cold to start with but pretty warm at the end.


DSR Triumphs and Tribulations

There were some ups and downs on the Dirty South Roubaix for sure.

The most memorable moments were the people supporting the event: the people of Alto Pass, the people with cowbells cheering us on, the unofficial beer SAG stop people, the state and county law enforcement who smiled and waved as they kept us safe, and the awesome work by the race directors and timing company. It was the best cycling event I’ve ever been to.

The most difficult parts were Pine Hill Road and the gravel hill at the end. That’s really my fault because I didn’t train for hills. I can’t blame anyone else.

I did push it at the end. I was pushing my bike and walking up the hill. I saw riders behind me struggling to ride up and a big crowd ahead of me cheering on people going through the King/Queen on the Mountain checkpoint. It inspired me to get on my bike, try my best, and get a little competitive at the end, passing as many people as I could.

I made it through the checkpoint, rode through the finish, and wasn’t last, which completely was my goal.


Lessons Learned about the DSR

I do have some lessons learned after I competed in the Dirty South Roubaix.

I should have trained more. I should have ridden the course a few times and trained more in that area. I probably would have been able to stay on the bike on the hills had I trained for them. I used to ride the Giant City area all the time and was really good at hills.

I struggle going downhill. I get a little scared of going too fast and potentially wrecking, so I ride the brakes quite a bit when going down steep descents. I need to work on that and improve.

I took some videos, but they were not very good. I need a better video strategy next time. I think I’ll use four of my GoPro cameras with my remote control next time. I’ll keep one on the back, one on the front, one on my helmet, and one on my chest.

Lastly, I need to believe in myself more because I did well in the end. I struggled up that hill, which made for a great ending. I wish I had videoed that!


Paul’s Video of the Dirty South Roubaix

Paul Suchecki, the myth, the legend, made an awesome video of the Dirty South Roubaix.

I’ve been in it several times. That’s not why it’s the best, LOL. But that did make it a lot cooler.

He is ace with video production and editing. He’s also ace with running a cycling channel on YouTube. He’s been everywhere and to a lot of rail trails, too.

I highly suggest checking out and subscribing to his YouTube channel.

And be sure to watch, like, comment on, and share his Dirty South Roubaix video below.

The Cycling Community of Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois has a great cycling community, which is why races like the Dirty South Roubaix can exist.

We need more events like this. If we let Southern Illinois be one, it can be a mecca of Midwestern cycling. We need to focus on more events, more mountain bike trails, better upkeep of Tunnel Hill State Trail, more rail trails, and community support.

Here’s the thing: Cyclists who travel here to race and do ride events are spending their money in Southern Illinois. They’re buying fuel, food, lodging, and more. Most want a unique experience, so they’re staying at cabins and Airbnb homes. They’re shopping locally at Mom-n-Pop restaurants and stores. They can also make smaller communities like Alto cycling communities and put them on the map for tourism.

Some people are afraid of tourism, but tourists bring money, jobs, and more opportunities to communities.

How can we grow cycling tourism in Southern Illinois? More local and regional political support, legislation, community support, and cyclists banding together to make it happen. It’s really that simple.

Gravel has made me love cycling all over again, and I’m thankful for that.


Final Thoughts About the Dirty South Roubaix

Overall, the 2024 Dirty South Roubaix was the best bike event I’ve ever been to. I’m looking forward to next year. I’ll probably go for the 100K and train a little better for it.

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Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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