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On top of the world

Whistler's Jesse Melamed took two of three Enduro World Series wins in 2020
VICTORY LAP Jesse Melamed took the Enduro World Series victory at Finale Ligure, Italy on Sept. 26. Photo by Duncan Philpott/Enduro World Series

No one can put any sort of footnote on Jesse Melamed’s third career Enduro World Series (EWS) win.

His first came at home in Whistler and his second came earlier this year in a weather-abbreviated contest, but No. 3, at Finale Ligure, Italy on Sept. 26, showed what he can do under one of the sport’s brightest spotlights where he’d previously finished seventh.

“Finale is one of the most iconic race venues on the circuit, so there’s no arguing about that one,” he said. “It felt really good to win in Finale because I’ve had some big injuries there and some super good results. 

“It’s one that I would put pretty close to Whistler as far as iconic to win.

“It definitely feels better than the first one [this season] considering how weird [it was], considering it was the first race after a long time off, and then it was a shortened race. It was all very questionable, so it was nice to back it up, have a super legit race,” he added.

In the pandemic-shortened season, Melamed came away with two victories in three tries in 2020. At Finale, the Rocky Mountain Race Face rider won the first three stages before taking sixth on the fourth and final stanza, ultimately topping France’s Florian Nicolai by 8.98 seconds and third-place rider Jack Moir of Australia by 13.11 seconds.

The roughly 60-kilometre course provided its share of intrigue as always, Melamed said.

“They have such an old and historic network of trails. They really enjoy going out and refurbishing things they can make into a race stage,” he said. “At first, riding is not very fun but for race days, they become super fun to ride.

“There were two amazing super-fun stages and two different, yanky, physical stages but that’s what Finale always delivers.”

Pulling off consecutive stage wins was also a crowning moment for Melamed, as it displayed the consistency he’s long sought.

“I was definitely the fastest rider out there so it felt really good,” he said.

The win was the third of Melamed’s career after a weather-shortened triumph in Zermatt, Switzerland last month and a podium topper here in Whistler in 2017.

The Enduro World Series is not giving out individual accolades during the 2020 season because of the pandemic, though Melamed sits atop the global rider rankings heading into 2021.

“I was riding confident. I was riding happy,” he said. “I’m happy at the top. It’s a little bit surreal.

“I’ve had stage wins as far back as five years ago, so I’ve had the speed. It was just about having the speed consistently.”

Other local results from the Finale men’s race include Squamish’s Rhys Verner in 23rd, Whistler’s Carter Krasny in 62nd and Squamish’s Remi Gauvin in 94th.

On the women’s side, Andreane Lanthier Nadeau came away with a sixth-place showing, 56.08 seconds behind winner Morgane Charre of France. Melanie Pugin and Estelle Charles rounded out the French podium sweep. Squamish’s Miranda Miller came away with a 15th-place result.

Looking back on the season, Melamed had some mixed emotions, saying that while he didn’t expect it to be fun when starting up, it was more enjoyable than expected. That said, it’s a low bar in a pandemic world.

“It was super tough. I don’t think people realized how stressful it was to fly over there, not only for safety, but for moral reasons thinking, ‘Is this what we should be doing right now with what’s going on in the world?’” he said. “Most people took it pretty seriously over there and we were in full control of the exposure that we had. We’re wearing masks, we weren’t congregating in big groups of people and we weren’t going out all the time.”

Melamed noted the underlying risk of injury when travelling for an extreme sport, so it was difficult mentally to add the possibility of contracting a virus to the stack.

“You try not to think about it, but if something happened, it would be really unfortunate, so it added another level of stress to the whole trip,” he said. “It’s not something that I want to do often and I’m hoping that for next year, things have improved or it’s safer to travel.”

Shutting the book on a bizarre 2020 that saw Melamed and other locals rev up quickly for Crankworx Summer Series before going overseas, he said he feels fulfilled at this point.

“Given how I felt a couple months ago not having anything in the season, it feels great to have done Crankworx and these three EWS races,” he said. “It does feel like we had a season. It might have been weird and it might have been short … but it feels like we did quite a bit of racing and we can be satisfied with what we did.

“This felt like one trip of what would normally be many in a season, so I think in two weeks or three weeks, I’ll be like, ‘Well, it’s a long time to wait until the next races.’”

Melamed added that he appreciated the support from back home encouraging him through the season.