Overcoming some wet and weird conditions, Whistler enduro rider Jesse Melamed came away with his second career Enduro World Series (EWS) win in Zermatt, Switzerland on Sunday, Aug. 30.
The first EWS contest in the new pandemic world was further challenged by rainy, sloppy conditions, which limited the race to just two stages. Melamed opened up a hearty 10-second gap after the first stanza before hanging on by 4.64 seconds over defending champion Martin Maes of Belgium. France’s Theo Galy placed third.
In an email, Melamed said he was thrilled to have hit the ground running and started strong heading into the unprecedentedly strange campaign.
“It feels amazing. To me the first race of the season is always the hardest. There is so much time spent in the off-season wondering if what you are doing is the best thing. So to come here after the extended off-season and win is the best thing I could have asked for,” he wrote.
“I put everything into my racing and being the best, to have that be rewarded is a great feeling.”
Rainy and, in some parts, snowy conditions wreaked some havoc on the day, as the race was first delayed and then downsized to just the two stages. Melamed hung out with Rocky Mountain Race Face teammate Remi Gauvin of Squamish, who ended up 24th, as they awaited word of what was to come.
“Remi and I were both super positive and eager to get out there and race so we were just twiddling our thumbs, remaining calm and being ready to go when they said go,” Melamed wrote.
When they did get the green light, Melamed was keen to drop in to the first stage, which he said was the best trail of the day. While it was in less-than-stellar shape after the downpour, he still rode it significantly better than anyone else and rode away on top.
“I had a lot of fun on it in practice so I think I just kept that happy and positive attitude into the race. It was a complete mess from practice though and was super difficult to ride. I just kept myself calm and focused on hitting every section without going off course,” he recalled.
Though the Zermatt contest marked the first race of the EWS season, Melamed already had a dozen races under his belt this year by virtue of taking part in Crankworx’s Summer Series (CWSS) in July and August. Though he didn’t hit the top step in any of the three enduro races on the circuit, but did take a downhill triumph, Melamed felt like he was in a midseason mindset by the time he hit the start gate.
“I think it just got all those race jitters and anxiety out of the system. I think when you put so much time and energy into something, it’s hard not to overthink it when the time comes,” he wrote. “The CWSS forced us into so much racing so quickly that there was no time for that, and yet we did 12 races so by the end of it I was just a racing machine!”
Before heading across the pond, Melamed—like several other athletes—had some reservations about travelling such long distances to compete in the midst of a global pandemic. However, Melamed was also aware that the athletes needed to be as safe and responsible as possible out of respect for the host sites. It was admittedly a bit strange, however.
“It was a bit weird. We’ve all been travelling and racing together for a long time and to have this invisible barrier and awkwardness seeing everyone for the first time this year was a shame,” he wrote. “But things got a bit better and we were able to enjoy being back at the races with all the best in the world.”
Other locals included Squamish’s Rhys Verner in 22nd, and Whistler’s Carter Krasny in 60th. On the women’s side, France’s Isabeau Coudurier topped countrywoman Morgane Charre and Great Britain’s Ella Conolly, while Squamish’s Miranda Miller took 10th. Andreane Lanthier Nadeau crashed in practice earlier in the week and opted to sit out the race.
Riders will get a bit of a break before resuming the season at Pietra Ligure, Italy on Sept. 20, starting a mad dash to the season’s end that includes racing four of the following five weekends.
Melamed’s strategy for getting through the next few months: “Trying not to overthink it and just have some fun while we are over here. There’s obviously not much travelling that we can do so we just need to keep ourselves and the team sane during the eight-week trip.”