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Melamed captures Andes Pacifico

Whistler racer tops five-day stage race

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Jesse Melamed is used to grinding through stage races over the course of one or two days on the Enduro World Series circuit.

But things were a little bit different at last month's Andes Pacifico Enduro.

The 26-year-old gritted his teeth and topped the five-day race in Chile, held from Feb. 12 to 18. Melamed had gained some lengthy-race experience at last year's B.C. Bike Race (BCBR), but acknowledged in an email that the Andes Pacifico was "much different."

"I think I'm so used to one-day races as a kid racing XC that even two days is weird. I was already more than satisfied once I won Day 2 and took the overall lead. After that it was just stressful! I was worried I'd ride too cautious or have a mechanical. But I think it was good practice for that. Reminding myself to ride the same regardless of what is going on in the results," Melamed wrote.

"The BCBR definitely helped. My camping game was strong! I was organized and knew how to manage my time so I could maximize my resting and always be ready for the days. It also taught me that I would feel wiped from Day 1 and to just deal with it."Melamed won three of the five days to help put him in great position to top the overall race. In the end, he bested Chilean Pedro Burns by 47 seconds and Great Britain's Mark Scott by 77 seconds.As Melamed noted, Day 2 helped vault him past Burns into the driver's seat as part of the longest day of the five. Melamed's time of 39 minutes and 44.23 seconds was the quickest as part of a gruelling stage."It was intense! I love the longer stages, it lets you get into a good flow and really enjoy yourself," he wrote. "It was a true Enduro stage with a good pedal, line choices and just straight up gnarly. The results mattered less to me than how fun the stage was. I was just loving it! But I guess winning the stage leaves me with a good memory of it!"

As the winner, Melamed was clearly speedy, but given the race conditions, he acknowledged some parts might have been a little fast for even him, especially early on.

"All anyone talks about the race is the anti-grip. And I can say that it's real. It's hard to adjust to the much-earlier braking points. Plus the speeds are much faster than I'm used to. So you would see a corner and have to brake so early to slow down enough to make it around the corner. That's not my style so that was an adjustment. (There were) a lot of scary moments before I learned," Melamed recalled.

"I really liked the high-speed wide open stuff, just grip the handlebars, tuck, and see how fast you're willing to go. That is so different to anything we have at home so it was cool to have that. There were some stages that had that but with some exposed technical sections included. I didn't like that. Mostly, though, I just came to love the dirt because you just ride it foot out and drift. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't, but it was just fun... And scary."Melamed said when he got the invite from race organizers, he had to jump at the chance to compete, noting it lived up to the hype. It could also provide a jump start on 2018, as the first Enduro World Series race of the year is also in Chile in about a month.

"It's a great confidence boost to have before the EWS. This way I'm coming into the race knowing I'm on pace and can ride with confidence," he noted.

The win comes on the heels of a significant injury Melamed suffered training for the final Enduro World Series race of the season, dropping him from fifth to 12th in the overall standings.

"A week before the race I was just riding around the area with my teammate and I washed the front wheel and got sent into a tree on a high speed section. Broke my right humerus, eighth rib, transverse process of my T-6,7,8,9 spine and a bruised lung. Spent three days in hospital being monitored!" Melamed wrote in a follow-up email.

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