Jesse Melamed, arguably, shouldn't even be riding his bike right now.
But there he was at the Enduro World Series (EWS) race in Italy on July 21 and 22, ripping up trails and in the end, finishing just off the podium in fourth.
The race wrapped up a long stretch away from home for Melamed, who was in Europe for five weeks for a pair of EWS events, as well as sponsorship commitments. He acknowledged starting to feel run down with a cold toward the end of his trip, but still managed to pull off a fourth-place finish at La Thuile.
Additionally, Melamed is only nine weeks removed from receiving surgery on a broken collarbone that he suffered during the third EWS race of the season in France.
"I was still recovering and not truly racing, which helped take some pressure off. I just looked at the weekend as an opportunity to ride my bike," he said. "Day 1, it definitely worked because we had some steep and technically challenging trails."
Melamed said the trails on the second day were fast and difficult, but he managed to ride cleanly and confidently. Though he didn't place quite as high in some of Day 2's stages, Melamed still retained the fourth-place position after coming over the finish line.
As well, organizers had made some changes to the second day's courses, as some new trails weren't holding up and some established and familiar ones were used in their place.
"There was a course change after the first day because of the weather and we ended up doing the sixth stage in the morning and again in the afternoon. What we know of La Thuile, they have super fun bike park trails. They're super fast and rough and have good flow," he said.
While Melamed was disappointed that the new lines were removed, he added it was the right decision in the end.
"They really tried to do something new this year and build a lot of new trails and they were great in practice because we were some of the first ones down them, but after hundreds of people go through them, they get kind of blown apart. Then the weather came in and brought out all the roots and all the rocks," he said. "It got pretty dangerous, so after that, for the second day, they decided to kick out the fresh-cut stage and run us down the more embedded bike park trail a second time."
The next EWS event is the CamelBak Canadian Open here in Whistler on Aug. 12, which Melamed will enter as the defending champion. As well, that's roughly the time he's officially cleared to be back on his bike again.
"Whistler's good because I'll be 12 weeks post-op, which I'm told is the actual time I'm allowed to ride my bike again," he said. "I'll go in there with a little bit more comfort and not being stressed out about doing something I shouldn't be doing."
He reiterated that the fourth-place showing was also a boost, considering he had minimal expectations heading into Italy. While some riders might feel the added pressure of coming in with a chance to repeat, Melamed said capturing his first EWS win, as well as a triumph here in Whistler, was a tick off his bucket list and he feels more easygoing coming in than he has in years.
"Honestly, I won last year and that's been a goal for a long time. If I don't win this year, for me, it's not a huge hit. I'd like to win for everybody and for myself, of course, but I just want to have great day of racing again," he said.
Melamed, who also raced in Eastern Europe earlier this month, said he's feeling fine after the operation.
"I have a plate put in there, so it's strong, and I feel totally fine on the bike. There's no pain and there's no issues," he said.
Also in Italy, Whistler's Yoann Barelli took home an eighth-place finish on the men's side while Andreane Lanthier Nadeau was sixth in the women's race.