Following up a 2021 season which saw Jesse Melamed finish top three in the Enduro World Series (EWS) overall rankings, the Whistler product took things to the next level in 2022, finishing the season as the 2022 EWS overall champion.
Although he also finished with the most points in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, this win marks the first-ever official EWS overall win by a Canadian, which is an accomplishment Melamed holds dear to his heart.
“To get it done is something that I'll never forget, and that's pretty special to me, because I've worked so hard at it. It’s insane to see my name next to everyone else that has won the title. So yeah, it's a pretty big accomplishment,” he said.
“I was someone who always watched racing as a kid, and I always cheered for any Canadians whether that was cross-country or downhill.”
That included watching the winning exploits of legendary Canadian downhiller Stevie Smith, who tragically passed away in 2016. While Melamed was never close to Smith, “I always watched him, and I kind of felt like this was for him, and continuing that legacy, because watching him take the overall in Downhill was pretty special,” he said.
“So yeah, I hope some kids can kind of look up to me for that and know that Canada is a strong race nation, and we have what it takes. I think I'm still the only Canadian to win an EWS race and now the first one to win the overall, so it's cool to kind of pave the way for that.”
Winning the overall title is something Melamed never expected himself to accomplish. In fact, at this time last year, he described it as “disheartening” to consistently race as fast as he could but still fall short of the pace set by Jack Moir and Richard Rude—the first and second overall finishers in 2021, respectively.
So at the end of his best season ever—at the time—Melamed was left racking his brain trying to figure out how to take the next step and get to the same level as the top competitors.
And after getting his bike tuned in the way he wanted it, and getting in a good off-season of training, Melamed was ready to hit the ground running at the start of the 2022 season—and he never looked back.
“I think I was still figuring out the bike in 2021. I made some changes in the offseason, that actually started at Nationals, and then I spent the winter on it; I got really comfortable, and I came into the season, fast,” said Melamed. “That allowed me to build through the season with those other guys, whereas in 2021, I felt like I wasn't on their pace, I was changing things and I could never build throughout the season. I just kind of stayed the same, and I just didn't have the winning pace.”
Across the Series' first three races, Melamed and second overall finisher Rude were neck and neck, with Rude taking the slight advantage with two firsts and a second-place finish to Melamed's two seconds and a first. However, Melamed gained a bit of a cushion on Rude at the EWS event in Whistler, where he took gold on his home track while Rude fell to 44th.
The next race in Burke, Vermont saw Rude and Melamed, once again, neck and neck, with the American taking top spot and Melamed coming close behind in third. Melamed would then gain a little more ground on Rude the following week in Sugarloaf, Maine, where the two finished in first and 21st, respectively.
And it was that consistency—which saw Melamed inside the top-10 in all eight races, including six podium finishes across the series’ first six races—that was the difference between Melamed and Rude.
“I guess I was just on the podium pace this year, and just able to make it happen every race,” he said. “I've always felt like I was fast, but I always lacked that consistency and that smart riding. And I think I figured that out in the last couple seasons.”
The last two races of the series took place in Crans-Montana, Switzerland on Sept. 17 and Loudenvielle, France on Sept. 24, where Melamed would finish eighth and sixth, respectively, edging out Rude by one spot in each race to hang on to the overall title with 3,870 points to Rude's 3,345.
Rounding out the 2022 overall podium was Germany's Martin Maes with 3,315 points, while 2021 overall winner Jack Moir battled back from a slow start in the first half of the season to land in the top four with 3,030 points.