Featured Event: The Dirty South Race 100K

Featured Event: The Dirty South Race 100K-
Editor’s Note: The RidingGravel.com calendar is chock full of great gravel events from which to chose from. The choices have grown to include several varieties of events and number over 400 as of this writing. That’s a far cry from the small handful of events I first listed in 2008! With so many events listed we wanted to help put the spotlight on a few upcoming events we think are unique and interesting.
This time we are featuring an event that started out as a challenging group ride, then it grew, and now it has evolved to a full on race. Check out the Dirty South Race 100k as described for us by Shawn Moore who also provided all the images used in the post here.
Dirty South
Illinois- Not as flat as you think!
History and Beginnings: The locals have been doing long painful adventure rides for several years. We call them the “Dirty South” rides. These rides are a mix of pavement, gravel, dirt, mud and sometimes water. We continue to look for the most hills, most gravel and most painful route we can put together each year. Until now, all of these rides have just been large group rides. We usually have between 20 and 35 riders show up for these rides. Some people want to hit it hard, some want to ride a casual pace and chat, and some just want to see if they can finish.
Dirty SouthMany people have been asking for a race…. So, here it is. The first Dirty South Race in the far South end of Illinois. Most people think Illinois is flat. Well, not so much down here in the Southern tip. There will be some flat sections of the course, but it will be littered with gravel and potholes. The course will be 100K + and will not disappoint. My Garmin claims last year’s route involved over 4,000’ of elevation gain. My legs didn’t argue. If you are looking for an awesome route, great challenge, killer scenery, beer, food and cool peeps to hang out with for a day, come check it out.
Sponsors: We lined up the most important sponsor the day we decided to put on this event. The beer guys. St. Nicholas Brewing Company is not too far from Carbondale where many of us live. They have great brews, awesome food and most of all, they love cycling. The brewery is cycling themed and the owners ride and promote cycling in the area. Tom is a great guy and has been to some of our rides as we have went to many of their group rides from brewery to brewery too. There are many breweries scattered around our area, but we are very partial to St. Nicks because of their love for cycling AND their great beer.
Dirty South
Roads are open to traffic, so be careful!

Event Details: The race will start and finish in Alto Pass Illinois at the village park. They have a large pavilion with a stone fireplace, heated restrooms, a little hiking trail and even a playground if you get bored. If the weather turns out terrible, the village hall is just across the street and we will have access to that if needed. A GPX file will be provided before the race. Cue sheets will be provided and turns will be marked. The course will be on open roads, so there may be vehicle traffic in areas. Road surfaces will be buttery smooth asphalt, chipseal, smooth gravel, chunky gravel and dirt. You are advised to use good judgement and make safe decisions during the race. The distance will be at least 100K. There will likely be pain and suffering.

There will be at least 2 sag stops with hydration and nutrition. At least one of these stops will have a wrench from the Bike Surgeon in Carbondale to help anyone out who needs it. We will shuttle a SAG bag with your own food/drink/gear to the stops before the race if you would like. There will also be a sweep vehicle to pick up anyone who needs a ride back to the start/finish area. We will do a packet pick-up the night before at a local establishment with local brews and eats. There will also be morning of packet pick-up at the race start/finish area. There will be ​an event  T-shirt and other swag with your entry. There will be prizes for top finishers in each category. Our goal is for this to be a fun event that people want to come back for another one next year. Ultimate goal is a series of races using different areas of SoIL as we have been doing with our rides for several years. ​
Dirty SouthSuggestions On Equipment: Most of us ride cross bikes with light knobbies or file treads on these rides. Many of us would ride a gravel bike if we had it, but we don’t, so a CX bike does just fine. Some people ride MTBs with light knobbies. If I had to suggest a bike to ride on this course, it would be a gravel/cyclocross bike. Tubeless is the way to go for me, it may not be for you. It all comes down to riding something you are comfortable on and you trust to get you through the day.  There are a couple areas on the course that a cheering/heckling/hand-up group could assemble.

Advocacy: A portion of the proceeds from this event will go towards the Mountain Bike Trails at Touch of Nature.

​ Right now, there are ZERO purpose built mountain bike trials in Southern Illinois. We are trying to help things get moving at the Touch of Nature property to get some trails built. IMBA is designing the first 5 miles of trail right now, and we hope to be moving dirt and building trail within the next 6 months. Unfortunately, money is the hold up on having the trail professionally built. It looks like we may be leaning on volunteers to build some or all of the trails. However we end up building it, we will need some money. So, a portion of the proceeds from this race will be given to Touch of Nature to put towards whatever is needed to help with the MTB trail efforts. ​
Dirty South
Expect some beautiful territory to ride through.

Points of Interest: ​For those not racing or for those that are curious, there are other interesting things about the area. The race will be held in the area of the Southern Illinois Wine Trail. There are several (more than ten) wineries scattered across Southern Illinois. There are also 5 or 6 breweries that have popped up in the past few years.  The Shawnee National Forest spans from the Mississippi River to the Ohio River across the south end of Illinois. There are 400+ miles of trails in the Shawnee. Most all of this is hiker/equestrian trail that gets abused heavily by the equestrians. It makes for some very tough and challenging mountain biking that most beginners hate. We tell people that if you can ride in the Shawnee, you can ride anywhere. I totally believe that to be true. We have steep climbs, crazy technical sections and everything else you can want. The only things we don’t have here are: extreme elevations and long multi-mile climbs.


For more information on the Dirty South Race 100k see the following links:


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RidingGravel.com would like to thank Shawn Moore and Tom Welge for the information and images used in this post. All material and images used in this post may not be reproduced without prior consent. RidingGravel.com would also like to remind you that this event and more like it can be found on our Events Calendar: http://ridinggravel.com/event

Discuss and share your questions or thoughts about gravel bikes, gear, events and anything else on the Riding Gravel Forum.


Author: Guitar Ted

Guitar Ted hails from Iowa. Home of over 70,000 miles of gravel and back roads. An inaugural member of the Gravel Cycling Hall of Fame and Co-creator of Trans Iowa in late 2004- Guitar Ted has been at the forefront of the growth of gravel events and riding since then. Creator of Gravel Grinder News in 2008, he produced the premier calendar of gravel and back road events. GT joined forces with Riding Gravel in late 2014.

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2 thoughts on “Featured Event: The Dirty South Race 100K

  1. So, I have only yet done a handful of gravel races so my depth to “review” a race my not be extremely deep. That said, the Dirty South 100K was an absolutely fantastic race – as well organized and supported as any triathlon or road running race I have done to date. The course was so well marked with arrows painted on the road, signs and marshalers that I never once had to refer to my garmin for directions! The two Sag stops were extremely well stocked and supported as well. There were approximately 90 riders at the start and I believe most if not all finished. The course was very challenging and had it’s share of hills and a variety of surfaces. Not a lot of pavement (which I like). All things considered these folks put on one hell of a great event and I will definitely be back next year. I didn’t get to stick around after the race to mingle but I I certainly got to chat with a lot of fine folks along the course. A very well organized, challenging and fun race with some really beautiful views along the way. Nicely done!

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