Jesse Melamed has made it into the top 10 of the Enduro World Series before.
But that sixth-place finish in 2013 was at home at Crankworx, and just never fully clicked as quite representing the true meaning of the circuit's upper echelon.
Any asterisks or justifications in the mind of himself or anyone else should be removed now, as Melamed finished ninth in the pro men's division at the Chain Reaction Cycles Emerald Enduro in County Wicklow, Ireland, completing the course less than a second behind perennial contender Jerome Clementz of France, whose eighth-place showing was his lowest placement ever.
"(S)ince that (Crankworx) was my home race, and the competition wasn't as fierce, I haven't been counting that one," Melamed, a Rocky Mountain Urge BP Rally Team member, explained in an email. "I think this is my first true top-10 finish as it is overseas and I am riding and focusing solely on the EWS now."
In the grand scheme of the May 24 race, Melamed's time of 28 minutes, 41.24 seconds was within a minute of winner Greg Callaghan of Dublin, who won three stages and finished no lower than fourth in any of the others as he claimed victory by nearly 16 seconds over New Zealand's Justin Leov.
Whistler residents Josh Carlson and Yoann Barelli had great showings in their own right, finishing 14th and 15th, respectively, while Jordan Hodder was 34th. Dylan Wolsky and Pemberton's Davis English found themselves well within the top half of finishers, placing 69th in a field of nearly 240 riders.
The Enduro World Series season kicked off nearly two months ago at the inaugural Crankworx Rotorua in New Zealand, with Melamed ending up in 23rd. However, with the loop taking a break before resuming in a big way in Ireland, Melamed had plenty of time to regroup and plan for higher results with the bulk of the season still ahead. He found himself on the tail of Rotorua winner Clementz.
"(S)ince then I have been working on getting my speed back and pushing my limits," said Melamed. "I feel like I am where I should be now and this result shows it. Being so close to Clementz really puts all my hard work into perspective. The fact that I can finish so close to a legend like him gives me confidence in what I am doing," he explained.
Melamed added it's not just where he's finishing, it's how he's finishing. In particular, he felt he didn't do anything all that exceptional on race day, which he took as a confidence builder as he feels strong showings can be his norm.
"I just rode like I know how and that was fast enough to be competitive. Your perception of speed never changes, but your actual speed does. I felt like I was pushing it and going fast in (New Zealand) but I wasn't. So I spent a lot of time testing my limits and going faster and faster at home and now when I feel like I am pushing it and going fast, it is truly fast," he said.
An even higher finish could have been in order as Melamed put up better results as the race went on, finishing fourth in Stage 5 and fifth in Stage 6. He noted he received a shot of encouragement midway through the race, discovering he was in ninth through four stages — a rarity in a race, as riders are usually unaware of their placement until the end. However, a crash in the seventh and final stage cut into his time and cost him at least a couple of spots.
Melamed entered the Irish race with momentum after winning the local GO Enduro on the North American Enduro Tour the weekend prior.
It didn't serve him well, he felt, with a lingering weight of trying to replicate that speed at a higher level hanging around. That accomplished, though, he's riding a little bit more lightly with another EWS race on tap in Scotland's Tweed Valley this weekend.
"After my win on the North American Enduro Tour I felt some pressure to carry that momentum and show my speed on the world tour. So now that I have done that I feel like I can be a little more relaxed for Scotland," Melamed noted. "I know I have the speed to be up there and now I've shown it. It's becoming more clear that I am fast so I have less pressure to prove it. I can just ride and if I have a bad result it will just be an off day. So for Scotland I will ride my own race and aim for another top 10. And if I don't finish top 10, this trip was still a success and I will go home happy."