After spending hours on their bikes, battling gnarly terrain and 30 degrees C heat on Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains, crossing the finish line in Whistler Village became a storybook ending for multiple local riders competing in the Whistler stop of the Enduro World Series (EWS).
Whistler’s own Jesse Melamed and Squamish local Seth Sherlock were both able to secure the win in the Elite and U21 Men’s categories, respectively, all to the delight of the hundreds of fans crowded around the finish line on Sunday afternoon.
“Just having the crowds out there was really special,” said Melamed. The rider said he didn’t feel pressure to finish on top of the podium, since he had already won in Whistler in 2019, but was feeding off the crowd's energy all day.
“I didn't feel like I had to win, I just felt like I had to give them a show. Like they were just so stoked and so amped and even when I came down and flatted, they were still stoked," he said. "We have fans all over the world, and it’s amazing, but here you can hear the emotion in their voice when they yell, ‘Jesse,’ and it’s more like I just need to pedal harder and push as far as I can. They really lifted me up after the flat. I just had hype men everywhere all day.”
But despite the win and the energy he was feeling from the crowd, the best moment of the day, according to Melamed, was standing on the podium with his Rocky Mountain Race Face teammate and fellow Sea to Sky local Remi Gauvin.
Although he did land in the top three in 2019, this was Gauvin’s first time actually standing on a podium since his last podium finish came as a result of a post-race disqualification. To do it with good friend Melamed and in front of the home crowd was nothing short of a “dream come true,” for the Squamish-based rider.
“It was a dream, man. So many of my friends are in the crowd and my sponsors, everyone's so supportive. So many people yelling my name on the tracks and it really, like, fired me up so yeah, I'm really happy,” said Gauvin.
“I've been racing in Whistler all my life so I know these trails really well. I knew it was possible, it was a low-key goal of mine to podium here, but I haven't had the greatest season this year so I thought it was a bit unrealistic to put that pressure on myself this weekend. Even to be in the top-10 for me this year would be amazing, so to get a podium here is unreal.”
Where Melamed got off to a hot start winning the Pro Stage on Saturday and the first two stages on Sunday, before hitting a snag in Stage 3 with a flat tire, resulting in a ninth-place finish on that section, Gauvin’s day went almost the opposite.
After starting “a bit tight” in the first two stages on Sunday, with a 16th- and ninth-place finish, Gauvin knew he needed to really push it in the afternoon if he wanted to have a chance.
“I had to ride hard, which I did; Couldn't make any mistakes, which I didn't. so I'm stoked,” he said about the final three stages, where he hit fifth, eighth and fourth in the final run to claim the last spot on the podium.
Sherlock, meanwhile, was in the same boat as Melamed, leading for the entire day. But that doesn’t mean it was all smooth sailing for the young rider who was neck and neck with fellow Canadian Emmett Hancock for most of the day.
“It was a bit of pressure for sure. I was real stressed out [in the early stages] and then Stage 3 I got a pretty good gap, so I felt a little better after that. Extended the gap a little more in Stage 4 and by Stage 5 [I was] like, ‘OK, just make it down smooth, don't go crazy,’” said Sherlock. “And then I went in and on the top of the stage, I crashed. So then I was stressed out like, ‘I got to push now.’
"I lost like 15 seconds to [Hancock] on the last stage, but still got the win. So I'm pretty stoked.”
Canadians dominated U21 field with Leif Rodgers, Colby Pringle and Whistler’s Marcus Goguen going three, four and five, respectively, after Sherlock and Hancock.
On the women’s side, after being neck and neck with eventual winner Harriet Harnden through four stages, Squamish local Andreanne Lanthier Nadeau had a run to forget in Stage 5. She finished 14th overall, falling out of the top three and settling into fifth-place in the pro stage.
But it wasn’t all bad news for local riders, with Chilean-born Florencia Espineira Herreros—who now calls Whistler home—finding her way on to the podium. She capped off her extremely consistent day with a second-place finish in the last stage to snag the last podium spot.
The third-place finish in Whistler marks the third podium of the season for Espineira Herreros, who managed to pick up a pair of second-place results in France and Slovakia earlier in the season.
Next up on the EWS tour, riders will be heading to Burke, Vermont on August 13 before travelling up the road to Sugarloaf, Maine one week later.