Jesse Melamed has become a familiar and beloved sight at Crankworx Whistler’s enduro events over the years. This July will be a bit different: the hometown hero is defending his turf with new backers in tow.
Melamed tested free agency earlier this year, signing on with Canyon CLLCTV, joining riders like Dimitri Tordo and Jose Borges. In so doing, the Whistler-based icon leaves behind a career full of highs, lows and treasured memories with Rocky Mountain Race Face (RMRF), the team that kick-started his journey to the top of enduro mountain biking.
“It just felt right,” Melamed said of the change. “I’ve spent so long with [RMRF] and I’ve done everything I wanted to—it was a familiar feeling. I just wanted to try out a new challenge, and Canyon was offering some really great things that really aligned with my passion for racing.
“Winning the title with [RMRF] felt like a great ending to what was almost a perfect 10-year journey. It was hard to leave something good behind, but it was really exciting to go to something new.”
The team may have changed, but the goal remains the same: ride fast, ride for the win, and have fun doing it.
Journey to the top
On Aug. 11, 2012, Melamed had his first taste of Crankworx action, placing 19th as French mountain biker Jerome Clementz took victory. At that time, the Whistlerite was five years removed from his first EWS win and a full decade away from the overall EWS championship he earned in 2022. It was a key chapter in what has turned out to be an illustrious career.
“Just living in Whistler and having raced bikes growing up, it was just kind of natural for me to do a local event like that,” Melamed said.
His first enduro win as a pro came a year later at a Whistler Off Road Cycling Association (WORCA) contest. Then in 2014, he ripped off five victories, including three in a row, on the Sea to Sky circuit. Yet the early stages of Melamed’s EWS career were up and down: he struggled to make the top 10, and at times the top 30, in contention against the world’s best.
Even so, the talent was there—and just as importantly, so was the inner drive. Melamed continued to hone his craft, gaining experience with each and every race, until he finished second at the 2016 Canadian Open Enduro. That August, he proved he could hang with the cream of the crop—but it’s not the reason the event sticks out in his mind.
“That was the year my mom was at the finish line,” Melamed explained. “She’d just won her battle with some form of cancer, and that was a pretty special one. I just really wanted to finish the race strong.”
For many years, Melamed knew that he was capable of greatness on home soil. He knows the Sea to Sky’s trails as well as anyone, and he’s always had the athletic ability, but ill-timed crashes or mechanical failures held him back time and again—until 2017.
That year, Melamed finally broke through at Crankworx Whistler. He was the only man to conquer the 44-minute mark that day, besting Australian enduro legend Sam Hill and British rider Mark Scott. It was, to Melamed, “nothing short of a fairy tale.”
Speaking of fairy tales, local Crankworx fans got to witness another such moment in 2022 as their hometown favourite triumphed at EWS Whistler. It was one of many podium finishes in a groundbreaking season that culminated in the first overall EWS title ever achieved by a Canadian (outside of the pandemic-truncated 2020 campaign, when Melamed also prevailed).
Solving the puzzle
Melamed’s magnum opus was a long time in the making. Despite his skills and experience, the veteran had consistently been falling short of benchmarks set by his fastest rivals—most notably Jack Moir of Australia and Richie Rude of the United States. That changed at last year’s EWS Whistler race, where Melamed bested runner-up Moir by 16 seconds and 44th-place Rude by more than three minutes.
He also got to stand on the podium next to former RMRF teammate Remi Gauvin, who finished third.
When it was all said and done, Melamed amassed 3,870 EWS points—just ahead of runner-up Rude with 3,345. It’s a rare achievement, and one that has only gotten sweeter with time.
“When the chance was given and I had the opportunity, I’m glad that I was able to persevere and come away with the win, because it’s not going to be every year that you’re battling for the title,” said Melamed. “Everything just came together. For so many years, I’ve been doing this, and I’ve been building all the little pieces of the puzzle … and in 2022 it was just a culmination of all of that.
“It just really shows that I was a well-rounded, consistent rider.”
Now with an overall title on his increasingly decorated resume, Melamed doesn’t feel he has anything left to prove. He simply wants to keep riding to the best of his ability, enjoying the process each day. The Whistlerite was mainly a cross-country rider before the 2010s, but he feels much more at home in enduro.
“I think it really came about from what mountain biking generally is,” Melamed said. “I always just like going for big rides with my friends and family … and that’s what enduro is: a big day that we get to ride around with friends and other competitors. You’re social on the way up and you attack on the way down. It’s a really fun discipline to train for.”