With four hard Flank climbs and five unknown descents kept secret until race day, the WORCA Funduro was never going to be easy. Add with torrential rains the night before and some greasy riding conditions it's nothing short of impressive that 68 riders showed up to the event, ready to do battle with the mud, slick rocks, slippery roots and each other.
Riders climbed roughly 2,400 metres (8,000 feet) over the course of the day, covering over 30km of terrain from start to finish.
Jesse Melamed won the event easily with the fastest time in every stage, and was credited with a total time of 39 minutes and 51 seconds, four minutes (minus a second) ahead of Paul Stevens (43:50). Mahon Lamont, a junior rider, was third.
Melamed also cleaned all four climbs, something only two other riders managed (including Stevens) earning an additional time bonus of four minutes to bring his time down to 35:51. Stevens' time with the bonus was 39:50, while Mahon Lamont's climbing — he cleaned three of four sections — bumped him up from fourth overall to third with a time of 43:09.
The other rider to clear all four climbs was John Sebastien.
Rounding out the top 10 were Shane Gayton, Davis English, Tristan Merrick, Jamie Levett, Paulo Valle, Keven Phelps and Spencer Wight (also the second junior).
Fanny Paquette was one of a handful of women taking part, finishing 26th overall with a total time of 58:03. Amy Price Phillips was second among women in 1:00:33 and Robin O'Neill third in 1:06:19, followed closed by Penny Deck. Other female finishers were Alison Kayes and Alison Stewart.
Nothing about the day was easy. The first section had riders heading up Mid Flank from Function Junction and dropping into a little used, and extremely steep and technical, trail called Two Peas in a Pod that brought them back to Function. From there, it was a long transition on the Millar Creek Trail to Alta Lake Road and the long climb up Cardiac Hill and Stonebridge roads to the Stonebridge-Flank connector. The second downhill section was long, with riders tackling High Society to Industrial Disease, Danimal South and Mid Danimal back to the Stonebridge Road — a section that Melamed cleared in just 11:16.
Section three took riders down Danimal North, which is probably the easiest trail on the route on a dry day but gets significantly tougher with the mud.
From there, riders headed up Whip Me Snip Me and across the Rainbow Creek Bridge to the 27 Switchbacks climb up Alpine Flank. The next section was Billy's Epic, Surf's Up and Get Over It — the longest section of the day, with Melamed finishing in just over 13 minutes.
The final piece sent riders back up the Alpine Flank from the Alpine Meadows side to a trail called Howler.
Melamed was having a great day in the saddle until he hit a tree on the last descent and broke his pinky finger but was able to continue riding — "I had adrenaline on my side," he said, but knew something was wrong by the time he reached the bottom and the pain set in.
He's now in a cast and will miss the final event of the North American Enduro series, the Big Mountain Enduro in Moab, Utah on Sept. 28-29. However, he should be out of the cast and back riding in time of the Enduro World Series final in Italy on Oct. 19-20.
Melamed said it was nice to win the Funduro, although he didn't approach it like most races.
"I knew I was doing well, I was feeling good and riding fast, but you never know anything until you see your time at the end," he said. "I like it when your time backs up how you feel on the course. Sometimes you feel like you've smashed a trail, then you get to the bottom and see that somebody just beat you."
That didn't happen on Saturday, though a few riders came close. There were a few surprises on the course, including the Two Peas in a Pod trail that he's never ridden before.
"There's one section that drops you over a rock and you have to make a sharp right turn at the bottom of it. I had no idea where I was going and I don't know how I made that one," he said. "It was a fun trail, and I'd like to go back and ride that on a day where I'm not racing."
His favourite trail of the day was Howler. "I've been wanting to race that for a while because it's so much fun. There's not a lot of pedalling but it's got great flow, it's just corner after corner coming down. It's exactly the type of riding I like to do."
The conditions made things a little tricky, Melamed added, but also added to the fun.
"It was pretty wet and some sections like Middle Danimal you were sliding out around every corner," he said. "But I love riding the wet because it makes the trails a lot more interesting. A trail can get easy if you're on it a lot, but the rain humbles you a bit. You have to be on your game and be ready to do battle with yourself."
To compensate for the wet he lowered the air pressure in his tires, giving him a little more traction on wet rocks and roots by putting more rubber on the ground. It also probably helped him on the climbs, which were loose, steep and technical in spots.
"That was a really cool aspect of this race," he said. "A lot of guys didn't want to ride all the climbs because they didn't want to be too destroyed to ride back down. During Crankworx I did the same thing and walked some of the climbs, and I was riding a 36 (tooth) middle ring that would have made it hard to get up those hills. But this race I wanted to get all those climbs and not be as serious, see if I could do it. It was tough, especially the last two climbs. The 27 switchbacks climb probably took more than 20 minutes, and the way to up Howler was really tough and loose, so you have to be super focused the whole way. It was really cool, and a different aspect to the race."
Melamed races for the Rocky Mountain Bicycles team, and drew a lot of attention to himself during Crankworx Whistler this year when he held his own in the Canadian Open Enduro — one of the World Series events — and placed sixth against the top riders. That got Melamed an invite to the world championships and potentially a chance to race the entire World Series next year as well.