Over one quarter of a century later and here we are once again on the eve of another legendary Mont Sainte Anne World Cup in Quebec, Canada. Infamous for it's long and ragged nature, pushing riders to the edge of endurance, to this day the track remains a raw and violent causeway from start to finish. Over the years the course has taken many deviations in and out of the forest, but this summer it remains almost unchanged from the year prior, except for an early detour between the tables, chairs and poutine of a mountain cafe terrace. Conditions wise, we're talking mighty hot and dry... damn dry and what little dirt remains between the bedrock and cruelly positioned boulders won't be offering much in the way of grip without some significant downpours, which while we're on the subject, appear to be on the menu later in the week. Without any moisture scheduled before tomorrow, however, we can be sure the shrapnel will be flying fast and furious for timed training.So what's to play for this season? In a word; 'plenty'. While Finn Iles may have the overall title wrapped up, pride and points are at stake for the other juniors vying for the top spots, not least Matt Walker who is more than capable of putting time into the Canadian who has soaked up so much of the glory. The women's field remains wide open, with Myriam Nicole out in front, but Tracey Hannah and Tahnee Seagrave snapping at her heals and looking to repeat their victories from earlier in the season. 160 points clear of the competition, Greg Minnaar is running away with it on big wheels in elite men, all the more after Aaron Gwin's disastrous Lenzerheide tyre slash, but any mistake will surely be capitalised upon by the US champ or Troy Brosnan sitting second in the overall. Last year it was of course Danny Hart who did the business so it would be madness to rule him out of a blazing dash to victory. Tomorrow its on and we'll have some more valuable clues to stoke the fire of speculation under the Quebecois sun.
So far the weather has been saint-like in MSA, but rumor has that is not to last.
Will Aaron Gwin be satisfied with his Fox Fork service? As long as they are not 1/5000th of a Nm too stiff. Or perhaps too soft? Actually he's pretty mellow, it'll be fine.
Something shiny and new for Loic Bruni.
John Hall shows off the US national champ's stripey plate fresh from the win in West Virginia.
Vergier chats with the number 1 mechanic in the World.
Polish Pete checking the numbers as he gets Gee's big wheeler built up.
Matt Walker and the Cube squad arrive at the top of the mountain, ready to check out one of the most classic tracks on the circuit.
Postcard MSA views from the heart of Quebexico.
The near vertical start gate at MSA sends riders off a warp speed right from the get go.
One of the first and only alterations to the course is an unlikely diversion across the decking of the mountain restaurant. This was actually where the first DH races, back in 1991 began.
A short, steep ramp brings riders down from the decking onto the fire road. A pre-jump is probably about the only way to avoid a harsh huck to flat.
Finn Iles contemplating the lines through the rocks up top.
A new rock garden across the road from the decking section will start mixing things up early on.
Newly crowned Canadian National Champion, Miranda Miller, ready to battle it out on home soil.
The fastest track of the year, and currently the driest. It's super loose in all the corners and actually in need of rain for a change.
Jack Moir enjoyed a bit of surfing back home turing the break between rounds, and is now ready to smash the rocks and dust of MSA.
The rocks on the landing of the shark fin get bigger and bigger each year as the first slowly erodes away.
The surface on the fastest section of track is loose as...
The upper motorway straights, running a little greener than in past years.
In paying homage to the demise of Whistler's Heckler's Rock, it was shirts off on the rock for Dean Lucas today during trackwalk.
Death grip it and rip it.
The rocks poke out and the dirt level drops that bit lower every year.
The shark-fin drop in the middle woods will now launch riders onto a sketchy slab landing.
A few more rocks are on the landing of this gap than one year prior.
Between the boulders... the only safe place on the haggard MSA course.
Where there's no bedrock in the woods you'll find plenty of nasty rocks have been dragged into the line of fire.
The rockroll remains the main feature of the open section under the lift.
The cliff huck from the front... it's no smooth rock roll.
Bernat Guardia has raced here for over decade, and now instills his knowledge in the youngster on the Intense Team.
Stevie Smith's 2013 victory; undoubtedly one of the greatest runs of all time. Take a google if you don't remember it's brilliance.
Forever a classic... welcome to the 26th Mont Sainte Anne WC.
Dirt... what dirt?
From afar the track might look smooth and grassy, but up close it is savage.
Back to bedrock once again entering the lower woods section.
There's nowhere that eats wheels quite like Sainte Anne and this summer the vintage course is looking savage as ever before.
The main rock garden has aged another year, making it just that bit more eroded and jagged than we're used to.
The rocks garden in the bottom woods has been taped a bit tighter to close off two of the option lines. Why we are not sure, but it is a shame to see option lines taken away.
Amaury Pierron hasn't had a lot of luck this season but has the skills to pull out a big score on just about any track on the circuit.
Find the clean landing zone.
If not rocks, then roots....
It's the same track for the most part, but erosion in a few sections have made the usual race lines a bit of a gamble.
Just as the fatigue sets in on the bottom of the track, things get a whole lot rougher.
One of the gnarliest corners on the World Cup circuit. Old School and raw.
The last rocky chute is merciless on tired arms and hands.
The last stretch down to the finish line is turning into a sandbox.
Out of the final patch of trees before the finish arena and the last chance for a rapid deflation.
Win the crowd, Maximus, and you'll win your freedom.
Velirium delirium sets in.
Blenki's mechanic, Darren, dialling in his prototype ride.
Eliot Jackson down for some creative visualisation.
Bernard Kerr, almost healed up and back on the steed already. No racing just yet though...
Blenky dialling in his cleats... never an easy task.
It was this time last year, here in Mont Sainte Anne, that Ratboy first told Dougie that his racing days were done. Sad times for some, but a happy day for him choosing to go his own way.