The fresh slate and golden opportunity of a brand-new Enduro World Series (EWS) season, for whatever reason, just had never clicked for Jesse Melamed.
That is, until this season.
The 26-year-old put up a fifth-place finish in the 2018 opener in Lo Barnechea, Chile to immediately put himself among the hunters for the overall title this season.
Melamed finished the six-stage race one minute, 59.59 seconds back of winner Sam Hill of Australia, who finished a full 36 seconds ahead of runner-up Martin Maes of Belgium.
Melamed has had to cope with early-season frustrations like inclement weather and equipment issues in the past, but despite the disadvantage, has found himself among the top riders at season's end. He's eager to see if he can take the next step and seriously challenge for the overall crown, as he only has to play minimal catch-up at this point.
"It's really nice to finally have a start to the season I can be proud of. I train really hard every winter but I've never been able to put down a good result at the opening round. I always finish the season strong so I know I have it. It can only mean good things from here," Melamed wrote in an email.
He described the six "classic big mountain stages" as being "super fast and loose." He enjoyed the opening stage, despite only finishing 15th on it, whereas he was third on Stage 5 and fourth on Stages 2 and 4.
"I think Stage 1 was my favourite, just long, sandy turns where you stick a foot out and feel like you're riding a Moto," he said.
Even though riders are, in theory, at 100-per-cent capacity to start the season, Melamed said he crashed on the second day of practice and tore ligaments in his elbow. Though he had some doubts about how his riding might be affected, he still pushed through and performed well.
"(After crashing), I got taped up and finished practice, albeit in quite a lot of pain. I woke up race morning not sure if I'd be able to really push it, but 20 seconds into the first stage I felt the elbow was holding up so it was game on," Melamed wrote. "We were racing at 3,500 metres and the ozone here is thick so the sun really took it out of you.
"I also got a flat tire halfway down the last stage. I was sitting in third place at the time so it was a little disappointing to lose a podium spot. But I pushed as hard as I could to not lose too much time so I'm happy to salvage a fifth."
Though the EWS campaign is in its infancy, Melamed got a jump-start after winning the Andes Pacifico in February. He credited that race, held over five days, with helping him pump up with the season on the horizon.
"I think it definitely helped my comfort on the bike. I felt like I was able to push the speed without feeling out of control," Melamed explained.
With the second EWS event of the season coming this weekend in Manizales, Colombia, Melamed expects to carry momentum and hit the one-quarter point of the season in contention.
"I am fired up to continue my success and land another good result. I'm confident I can stick the podium this time around," he said.