The Pemberton Enduro helped Jesse Melamed get on track as the bulk of the Enduro World Series approaches.
In the April 25 race, Melamed captured the pro men's title with a time of 25 minutes and 30 seconds (25:30), well ahead of second-place finishers Yoann Barelli and Josh Carlson, who both posted times of 26:45. On the pro women's side, Pemberton's Emily Slaco zoomed away with every stage, posting a time of 32:42. Leonie Picton was second with a time of 33:08 and Sylvie Allen was third after finishing in 34:42.
Melamed looked to use the event as a springboard into his season, as he finds himself a touch behind the field after middling results at the season-opening event at Crankworx Rotorua.
"I rode really well. I'm really happy with how it went," Melamed said. "I might have had more practice than everyone else — I took it pretty seriously, climbing lines and getting really comfortable on the trails because this is a good training race for me.
"I felt like I was riding really confident and nailed all my lines, still just getting loose and keeping it fast."
Melamed acknowledged he made "a few mistakes" — nothing costly, though — as he was still testing his limits early on in the young season.
He said he felt strong in all four of the event's stages, expanding his lead to over a minute in the third stage.
"They all went pretty similar and I think it shows in the times," he said. "I had a pretty good gap in all of them. I couldn't even pick a favourite stage. They were all so good.
"Maybe Rudy's Trail (a new trail named for pilot Rudy Rozsypalek). It was super physical, but it was so much fun in the corners and it had a super good flow. And Fat Tug, there was almost no pedalling. You would just go down the whole thing, you're just smacking corners and smashing intersections."
Melamed explained his studies at the University of British Columbia had kept him from riding as much as he was hoping to at the very start of the season in advance of Crankworx, but he has since increased his practice time and feels better set up for the season after Pemberton. Melamed was 23rd in the men's open division in New Zealand.
He feels ready for a climb up the standings as the bulk of the Enduro World Series season approaches with the Chain Reaction Cycles Emerald Enduro in Ireland on May 28 and the Cannondale Alpine Bikes World Enduro in Scotland on May 30 and 31.
As well, Melamed said he rode for five hours in a day the weekend prior to the Pemberton Enduro, which helped set him up for the season by giving him the chance to get accustomed to "super long days on the bike." The race itself, meanwhile, provided a relatively low-pressure competition scenario.
"There were a bunch of people out there for their first time and they were just super stoked with it. It's an awesome format. You're out there all day hanging out with your friends," he said. "It's a very low-key event. There's no prize money or anything. I just did it for time on the bike and to share with all my friends."
From here, Melamed plans to take part in the GO Enduro race on May 16 before heading to Europe for the Enduro World Series.
"I think it's a good race. I did it last year and it's good fun," he said.
Course familiarity key for Slaco
Slaco tried to take a more measured approach to the course, realizing what was coming and recognizing the importance of keeping something in the tank to tackle the penultimate Rusty Trombone stage with its rock features and chute sections.
"I was just having fun and trying not to crash. There were a few long stages near the end there, so I was trying to hold it all together," she said. "The third stage was pretty long and it had some climbs in it, so (I was) just trying to keep it smooth and be able to hold on and have something left over for the bottom of that stage, which got a bit gnarly."
Though the pro women's field comprised of just six riders, it was a dogfight to see which rider would emerge. In particular, runner-up Picton was coming off enduro and downhill wins at the Subaru Sea Otter Classic in California the previous weekend.
"It was nice to have the home advantage, maybe, and I think that's what helped me edge out Leonie," Slaco chuckled, also crediting Allen with being an experienced and "extremely fit" competitor year after year.
Slaco was unable to secure a spot in the incredibly popular Crankworx Enduro race here in Whistler in August, as it sold out almost immediately. She plans to race in some of the BC Enduro races and looks to travel to Colorado for the Enduro World Series offering there. She will also be coaching at the WORCA youth camps this summer.
In the masters men's division, Craig Wilson edged Jeff Westlake by just a second for the win, while Elise Turcotte cruised off with the masters women's division by over a minute over Yale Greenfeld.
Matthew Clough took the open men's division over Ben Arnett, while Laura Batista held more than a four-minute advantage over runner-up Pippa Holdom. Lastly, Conrad Murdoch bested Neve Abraham in the youth men's division.