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Dirty Southern Roubaix: wind, steep climbs and murder

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Cyclocross and Gravelbiking (Recreational) This has to be the most physically intense sport ever invented. It's high speed bicycle racing on a short off road course or riding the off pavement rides on gravel like : "Unbound Gravel". We also have a dedicated Racing forum for the Cyclocross Hard Core Racers.

Dirty Southern Roubaix: wind, steep climbs and murder

Old 03-05-17, 10:37 AM
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Dirty Southern Roubaix: wind, steep climbs and murder

Yesterday was the 64 mile Dirty South Roubaix. Most of Illinois is flat and boring, but along the Mississippi River the cliffs are steep and the roads are murder. I use the term "road" with some hyperbole. Most of the gravel on the Dirty Southern Roubaix route is single-lane double-track and in some places the road is more of a imaginary concept than reality. Wout van Aert would have had dismounted a Cyclocross bike and run up the 20% climbs, I doubt he could have ridden it. Most, if not all, of the participants had to dismount. Pushing a bike up a 20% slope with very soft gravel underfoot was... ...murder.




The warm March weather was mostly ideal, bone dry and between 45f at the start and 65 at the finish. However, the 15-20 mph southerly wind was an unforgettable factor during 10 miles of southbound travel along a levee service road. Not only was the wind a constant force, there was no protection as you traveled well above the flood plain of the Mississippi. The wind was strong enough to produce whitecaps on the micro lakes along the levee.



Here is the route map: https://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/1472208145











.
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Old 03-05-17, 05:28 PM
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My gravel riding acquaintance and friend Mike M provided me with his ride report, it's a good read;


"I’ve given some thought to how I want to explain this ride…it was not a “typical” gravel ride. Chicago Mike and I had talked about this ride a few times, but I indicated that I really didn’t think I wanted to do a 65 mile gravel ride in hilly southern Illinois. But then, around 2 pm on Friday, Mike texted me to say that he found out that about half of the ride was on pavement and he felt up to it, so I agreed to go on short notice.

First the good stuff. Temps were 50-65 degrees, not a cloud in the sky, and wind was around 15mph out of the south. Wind was in our face going out and tailwind coming back, but lots of trees, so only struggled in it while riding a long levee road section around mile 20. As mentioned, about 30 of the 63 miles were paved, but most were hilly. A lot of the gravel was in the Shawnee and Trail of Tears Nat’l Forests which were beautiful. I’ve hiked in these woods before and we were definitely deep in the forest at various points.

Now for the interesting stuff. Ride started in AltoPass, about 20 miles southwest of Carbondale. Ride cost was advertised to be $55, but turns out that was the advanced sale price and by race day the cost had risen to $95 ?!?! We had already driven 2.5 hours, so we were held hostage. The ride was very well supported with volunteers at almost every corner and SAG vehicles were a regular sight, especially near the woods. Corners were clearly marked with painted arrows and signs. Two or three food/water stops and gear drop off/pick up was available as day got warmer. This was the first time they have run this event and it was a successful start. Only tweaks that we felt were needed were small ones. T-shirts and beer mugs for all finishers.

The first part of the ride was what I’ve come to expect in a gravel ride. Some pavement to get to gravel and the first gravel took us to Wolf Lake where the RRR (River to River Race, a relay runners race across southern Illinois) begins. We rode up the gravel road to the RRR starting line and then down the hill on Leg #1. (That was a great/fast 2 mile run!). Then we rode Leg #2 to the bridge before Leg #3. At the bridge, we went right on a double track jeep trail along a farmers field to getto a levee road that was just a service road, not open to traffic. The gravel was river rock and was not packed down much at all. This, along with the head wind made it a tiring stretch. Next, around mile 28, we rode a little pavement, then made a left turn onto what looked like someone’s driveway!? I told the volunteer there that I would have certainly missed that turn if she had not yelled at us. This is where things started to remind me of the movie Deliverance… Hills got steep, 15% to 25% and the gravel was loose river rock that you got little traction on. These were singlelane jeep trails that were probably only used by hunters. Nothing was good about this gravel. We had to walk up a number of hills because there was little traction and we also walked down a few hills because there was no useable line to follow and along with the trail being narrow, there were baseball and softball sized rocks scattered about. I don’t know how long it took us to travel miles 30 -33, but with all the walking, it seemed to take all day. We were also very, very deep in the woods (I swear I heard banjo music). After getting through the ugly part, I found myself on a long, paved run through a flat valley with a great tailwind and covered some ground quickly. This was a good mental boost and I started to feel better again. I eventually found myself on RRR Leg #4 and made a right onto more Nat’l Park gravel. This road took me through a Hunters Camp Area the state maintains to organize people during hunting season. Again, this was more single lane dirt/gravel roads that are not used by commuters although the surface was pretty easy to ride, just hilly. After a few more paved and gravel sections, I found myself at the base of the hill on Rt. 127 that goes up to Alto Pass (I told Mike that there are no downhill roads to Alto Pass). I figured that this would be the route to the finish. (it has a rusty iron bridge that you ride under at the top). This hill is a consistent 8% grade and is 0.75 miles long.

My totals for the day were 63.7 miles in 5:01 hours (6:01with stops) and 3,671 feet of climbing. Other than miles #30-33, it was a good and challenging day of gravel. I found out at the finish, from some local riders, that the hills around that section have not been successfully ridden (have to be walked) by everyone, and that some of the locals are nervous about getting up the loose gravel 25% climbs in their 4x4 off road jeeps!

This ride was different, but I am willing to attempt this ride again next year."









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Old 03-05-17, 07:23 PM
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that looks great & what fun w a group!
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Old 03-05-17, 08:45 PM
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Fantastic single and doubletrack pocs. Neat that it was partly routed on some forest roads.
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Old 03-06-17, 09:01 AM
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Thanks for the tremendous videos and ride report. Looks like a great ride.
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Old 03-06-17, 09:56 AM
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Nice!
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Old 03-06-17, 05:08 PM
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Thanks for sharing! What was your setup for this ride, sounds like the conditions were all over the place?
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Old 03-06-17, 05:37 PM
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Originally Posted by af2nr
Thanks for sharing! What was your setup for this ride, sounds like the conditions were all over the place?


I rode 2016 Raleigh Roker Comp. The Roker will take a 700x42 tire, has hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless ready rims and weights a moderate 21 lbs in the 60cm size. It came stock with a Shimano 2x11 105 drivetrain.







The OE crankset has been replaced with a Shimano CX50. The 36 inner chainring on the CX50 has been replaced with a TA 33t. The 11-32 cassette had been replaced with a Sram PG-1130 11-36. I was able to change the chainring and cassette without any other modifications. This is a really wide range, but I need that low gear to remain seated while climbing the super steep hills on soft gravel. I installed 700x36 Clement MSO tubeless tires.

It's a great all-around performer. It's capable of maintaining a solid pace across almost every surface found on the ride. It also rides with exceptional smoothness. The handling is super stable if a little sluggish. I'll summarize its performance on a variety of surfaces.

Pavement: Almost 50% of the route is on hilly paved roads, and road performance was better than expected. I normally consider gravel bikes with low air pressures gravel tires to be unresponsiveand slow on pavement, but the Roker accelerated and climbed well on rural paved roads. Not much different than my carbon Cyclocross bike using the same tires. Long stretches on pavement are tolerable, but not road-bike fast.

Firm and mostly smooth gravel roads: 1/3 of the route is on firm gravel that had a fine limestone base with loose gravel between the tracks. Almost like being on pavement. The Roker provided plenty of grip and speed on the firm gravel. Easy to climb steep hills while standing over the pedals.

Flat, recently graded gravel: One 5 mile section was recently graded gravel. It was soft in spots and lacks a smooth track. The Roker really soaks up the loose layer of random-sized stones. Holding a good pace is possible.

Soft, poorly maintained gravel: Red, river bottom, round gravel on the steepest climbs. Some traction and stable progress on soft, inconsistent gravel. Climbing on soft gravel was better than expected with good traction while climbing a 15% grade on a loose surface. When the route was steeper than 15% on loose gravel, I started walking. So did everyone else.

Descending on soft, rutted gravel: Stable, fast and reasonable safe due to geometry and hydraulic disc brakes. Fear no downhill.


My 170 lbs cycling friend rode a Cannondale CAADX Ultegra with 700x32 Kendra Happy Medium tires. He is a highly skilled bike-handler. Most gravel riders need a 700x35 gravel tire or larger tire for this event, but a 700x32 semi-slick can be used.

I like using a slick tire, if I know that the gravel is 100% firm. Using a slick on this route is not a realistic option, IMO.




..
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Old 03-06-17, 10:26 PM
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looks like a great ride. Thanks for the videos and report
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Old 03-08-17, 11:20 AM
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I found some excellent YouTube video from a much faster rider attending this year's event;




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Old 03-08-17, 12:43 PM
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Cool looking ride, maybe the stars will conspire to land me in Illinois on that weekend some day.

What is it about river roads? Some are fine and some are just brutal unforgiving she-devils that I would not want to take a 4WD down, let alone a bike. The Cool Hand Luke Gravel Grinder century in Leavenworth has about 12 miles along a river road that is some sort of sadistic combination of minimum maintenance, giant boulders masquerading as gravel, and what appears to be a formerly paved road that has been chopped up and turned into "gravel" -- really the worst of both worlds. Not to mention some quad-busting steep climbs along the Missouri River bluffs. By far one of the nastiest stretches I've been on.

I can't wait to try it again this year.
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Old 03-08-17, 02:57 PM
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More good stuff: Part 3


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