Jesse Melamed had been close before.
He was one rider away from claiming his first Enduro World Series win here in Whistler during Crankworx last July when Richie Rude, the last racer to come in, turned up with a golden time.
And then, earlier this month, the 25-year-old Whistlerite held the lead after Day 1 of the two-day Madeira event in Portugal.
But things fell apart on the second day, with mechanical issues hampering his run and ultimately leading to Melamed not finishing the race. Reached via email in advance of the fourth race of the season in Ireland, Melamed said it was a tough turn of events.
"I just hit a rock in the wrong spot at the right angle and broke something. I was able to rig up a temporary fix but it only lasted one more stage and I just had to call it after that. I was pretty disappointed not to be able to finish the day," he wrote, noting he couldn't reveal exactly which piece broke out of respect for his sponsors.
"I've had a few of these races where I've showed winning speed and then not been able to finish it out, so it's really hard to have another one. Especially since I was so clearly the leader. I had a 23-second lead after Stage 6 with Stage 7 being my favourite and a chance to gain more time. It was my race to lose and I lost it."
With the next race coming up this weekend, Melamed appreciates the chance for redemption and to hopefully capture an elusive victory after being so close — most notably hitting the top 10 in four consecutive races in 2016.
"I think it will always sting a bit... Unless I win in Ireland. Then I'll prove Madeira was no fluke and without the mechanical, I could have won. I'm definitely happy to have a chance at redemption so soon. It gives me something to focus on instead of feeling sorry for myself. So with a good race in Ireland, I can go home happy after this trip and prepare for the next races confidently," he noted.
Melamed knows that as the season progresses, he doesn't need to make many changes, as he knows he's been riding capably all in all, but with a bit of bad luck hamstringing his results.
"I didn't even think I was riding that well but to see my times up there wasn't a surprise. I knew I trained really hard this winter and I knew all the riding in New Zealand in the winter had given me good speed on the bike. The weather affected round 1 and a few mistakes at round 2 didn't let me show what I had. So I think my results this round are a proper indication of where I'm at. Conditions were better here. We had rain early on in the week so there were still a lot of slippery sections but it was dry enough to ride the way I like, to be aggressive," he wrote.
Melamed wrote that, win or lose, his support team helped set him up admirably with his bike being in good shape and his other team members ensuring he was well fed and well-prepared.