Flashback to 2010, I’m driving through Quebec reading out printed-off directions by the light of the passing road lamps, winging it on my way to World Champs. It was a spur-of-the-moment trip after a group plan fell through; I wasn’t going to let a lack of planning keep me from seeing the racers I’d seen in Earthed all those years live, in person. That night, I slept in my car in the parking lot as Pennywise blared on the stage 100 feet away, making sure to keep my head down as security did laps through the rows looking for rogue party-goers.

Infamous. Where champions start their journey to gold, but first on foot.

That weekend ended up being completely mind-meltingly cool. I watched Sam Hill return magnificently to form in the rain, just after then-Junior teammate Troy Brosnan cliched his gold – a bitter-sweet moment as that meant he beat the “hometown hero”, Neko Mulally, who landed in the silver medal position. Wildly, the crowd almost cared more (understandably) about Stevie Smith securing second place in front of his actual home crowd. On the women’s side, we all bore witness to the timeless riding of Tracey Mosley, who finally won her stripes after a storied career, and Lauren Rosser kept the dream alive with a big win in Junior Women, putting a strong stamp on the event for the host nation.

Rough as ever. Rain-shaped and looking rugged.

Fast forward almost a decade: I’m back at MSA for World Champs, a former semi-seasoned squid, using my “vacation” time to come up and shoot/spectate/catch up with friends here on the edge of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. After track walk, my only thoughts are this: hope y’all brought some extra hoops and rubber. The legendary track is looking toothy as ever, all the topsoil is gone with bedrock growing up in place of grass, making the path down the hill look like a first draft of the Roman Road. Name the type of edge, and it’s supplied: square, rounded, jagged, razor, shark tooth… if you like rocks, you’re in luck this year.

This is just the tip of a much, much larger and unmoving rock. Yikes.

As always, the riders’ bikes are looking spectacular as ever, the varying brands all busting out the good paint for this weekend, it’s a part of the fanfare I’ve really come to enjoy. It was neat to see who got creative and how – painting tech is something we ought to talk more about, as I can’t figure out how some of the bikes look as good as they do, so wild.

I’m not sure what my aim is this week, but I’m just pumped to be here and back behind the lens!