With the high from his runner-up finish at the SRAM Canadian Open Enduro in his hometown still lingering, rider Jesse Melamed continued the good feelings forward this past weekend.
The Rocky Mountain Factory rider took a third-place result at the Portes du Mercantour race in Valberg, France on Sept. 17 and 18, finishing the seven-stage race roughly 17 seconds behind Australian Sam Hill, who took the win. France's Nicolas Vouilloz split the difference between the two to take second.
Melamed said after rainy conditions for practice, the clouds cleared for the two race days and provided some ideal riding.
"It was super fun to practice, but for the race it would have been frustrating. So luckily we had good weather for racing and the trails were running great. I felt average on my bike, just trying to have fun and enjoy the trails," the 24-year-old wrote in an email from Europe.
In a year of milestones for Melamed, this weekend was another as he took his first EWS podium finish outside of Whistler and won his first stage away from here as well.
"Stage 3 was unlike anything I have ever ridden before. There was really good flow to it with lots of things to pump and jump and then you just drop into these dried up river canyons that snake down the mountain. It was a bobsled track for bikes. I just really liked riding it and just kept seeing how hard I could push into the banked corners. The crowd was cheering and I was pushing hard so I got a bit loose but I held on and took the win on the most famous track in the area. (I'm) super stoked to take my first stage win outside of Whistler," Melamed noted.
Though Melamed was brimming with confidence after his Whistler performance, to sit third after the first set of stages and to hang onto that result after the second exceeded his hopes.
"All I was thinking was that I had kept my pace from Whistler. I knew it wasn't a fluke nor track knowledge there but to be third after Day 1 in Valberg was more than I expected, I was in disbelief. Even with my crashes on Day 1 I wasn't going to change anything, I was happy with my riding and just wanted to keep going and have fun," Melamed explained.
The bronze-level showing in France helped Melamed rocket up the standings into ninth-place overall. A win in Finale Ligure, Italy on Oct. 1 and 2, combined with the third-through-eighth-ranked riders failing to earn points would boost Melamed into third to finish the season. That best-case scenario is unlikely, but at the very least, another strong showing would keep him in the top 10 to wrap the season.
"It would be a big surprise, after my injury at the first race I thought my chance for a good overall result was over. Through good riding and consistency I find myself inside the top 10 overall going into the last race and I couldn't be more proud of myself," he said. "It's been a long learning curve and you really never know if you have what it takes. I feel like I have confirmed to myself, and others, that I have what it takes to be at the top and that's all I ever wanted. It would validate my choice to race professionally full-time; it would mean a lot. I would really like to finish the season on a high note and have another solid race."
In advance of the final, Melamed plans to ride for fun and enjoy Italy this week while trying to avoid thinking too much about his situation.
"The trails here are really fun but the ground is very loose in some places and very rough in others. It will be important to limit mistakes and keep the bike in one piece, pretty much the same for any enduro," he noted. "(I'm) just enjoy the riding and the Italian lifestyle! Cappuccinos, pizza and gelato!"
Fellow Sea to Sky-connected riders performed well at the race, as Yoann Barelli took 16th and Josh Carlson 19th. Chris Johnston was 64th.