Jesse Melamed admitted feeling some nerves in advance of the second-ever GO Enduro on Saturday.
Even with a more laid-pack pace and slacker transition times than he's used to, the Rocky Mountain Urge team member felt more butterflies than before even Enduro World Series level races. However, even with the pressure to win on his home turf he overcame any apprehension without much challenge against a stacked field.
"It's just the night before and the morning of, but once you get up to the first stage and are even hanging out, you're into it," he said. "The first stage, you've got to go slow, let yourself settle into a rhythm, and then you just ride your race."
In the pro men's category, Melamed posted a time of 24 minutes and 50 seconds (24:50) to put a fair bit of distance between himself and second-place finisher Yoann Barelli, also a Whistler resident. Barelli finished in 25:33 while Matthew Beer was third with a 26:19.
On the women's side, Claire Buchar of Kovarik Racing Intense topped the pro category with a time of 30:17 to cruise to victory over runners-up Leonie Picton (31:32) and Emily Slaco (31:53).
In both pro categories, prize money was equally divided with each winner taking $1,000, second place earning $500 and third place taking $250.Stephanie Denroche won the junior women's race, while Finn Iles was victorious on the men's side. Michael Watt won the master's men's race.
With the race jumping up to the North American Enduro Tour schedule, serving as the series opener this year, the race attracted a greater field than in its inaugural staging in 2014.
Melamed noted some key competitors were not around on the continent as they have taken off to Europe for events in Ireland and Scotland later this month, but the challenge was still present.
"This is huge. GO Fest last year was a fun little race just to get up to speed," he said. "This is the biggest win of my career. I can without a doubt say that.
"You've got the fastest guys in North America and I could still do it."
Melamed won all five stages over the course of the race, and noted he was particularly enthused with his Stage 4 performance on the relatively new Micro Climate trail, which he called his favourite. It did cause him some troubles, though.
"On Micro Clime, I overshot this one gap too big and put my palm into the upper part of my brake and it just went down. It was angled down, so it was a little bit stressful," he said. "I didn't know whether to stop and pull it back up or leave it, but I just left it."Melamed added the laid-back approach to the race was a blessing and a curse at various times.
"In EWS, they're still making us do tight transition times. These ones are pretty big, almost too big," he noted. "You have more time to hang out and relax with your friends. Not as much rushing between stages was nice. I found it really hard to get back into race mode before Stage 4 after the big break because you're tired, you've had a big day already."The aforementioned Irish and Scottish EWS races are also the next ones on Melamed's personal docket.