Jesse Melamed took a big step up in the elite enduro ranks this summer by winning his first career Enduro World Series (EWS) round at Crankworx in Whistler, British Columbia. The 25-year-old is in his first season racing full-time as a pro for the Rocky Mountain Urge BP Rally Team. He lives in Whistler.Stan’s NoTubes: Tell us about your win at Crankworx.
JM: I’ve been fortunate to have a local EWS race for the past five years. To me, it’s special to race against the world’s best at home, and yes, I had a home court advantage. The first year I did it was in 2013, and I got sixth place. That helped me get on the factory team. Then I had a few years with mechanicals, but last year I got second, and I finally won this year. It’s cool to have family and friends watching you race like that at home.
NT: What do you think made the difference in getting the win this year?
JM: It’s hard to say. I guess it was time, practice and effort. It’s been a gradual progression. I graduated from university last spring, so I had a less stress in my life and more time training since then. I think that helped. I also had a few good results over the years outside of Whistler. Everyone was kind of expecting me to win at some point, and I knew that I could. I beat Sam Hill by 14 seconds, and it was about a minute to the next guy. It was a relief to get the win done and in the bag.
NT: How has the rest of your year been?
JM: The season started off not the greatest, but I’m happy that I stayed strong and persevered to get four top 10s in the races. One of my goals was to have consistent top 10s this year. It started a little weird because we had bad weather for the top guys in the first few EWS races, so we all had more lackluster results than we expected. I had to put that behind me and believe it was the conditions and not me. I came into the third EWS round and was leading after day 1, but then I had a mechanical on day 2 and wasn’t able to finish. The next race the week after in Ireland, I put it out of my mind and finished fourth. Then I went home and then to France, but I was sick for racing in France though I surprisingly still managed a seventh. Next in Colorado, I got sixth.
NT: What Stan’s NoTubes wheels are your riding and on which bikes?
JM: I’m riding carbon Bravo wheels and racing on aluminum Arch MK3s. All are 27.5”
NT: What do you like about your Stan’s wheels?
JM: I raced the Bravos for two years. Wheels are never going to be indestructible but those are as close as you can get for a carbon wheel. I remember smashing them into rocks and waiting to hear air leakage, but it would never happen. The Bravos felt great; they weren’t too harsh for a carbon wheel. They were compliant and so durable. I rode one wheelset for the entire year - eight races. That’s a good amount of time for a wheelset! I like the Arch MK3s because they have similar dimensions to the Bravo, but are aluminum wheels and thus have a little more give to them. They deflect a bit more when it gets rough and give a nice ride. I switch my wheelsets back and forth all the time. Both my Bravos and my Arch MK3s ride so well that it’s sometimes hard to tell a difference.
NT: Do you prefer 27.5” or 29” for enduro and why?
JM: With wheel sizes, there have been 29er enduro bikes for a while now, and I don’t think that there’s a clear winner in wheel size. Half of us are on 29”, and half are on 27.5”. Both can win races. It comes down to personal preference. The first bike our team had available was a 27.5”. And now we do have a 29er in the lineup, but it didn’t come out until the end of August, so we decided to stick with what’s comfortable for the rest of this season. We’ll be testing wheel sizes during the off-season and will figure out what’ll work best for us for next year. NT: What trends have you been seeing in enduro racing?
JM: Foam inserts are a trend, and I’ve been running them with my tubeless setup. I think they are a huge advancement in the wheel game. I’d estimate that at least 50% or more of enduro racers are using them. We run foam inserts because we have to get through so much racing time and so many kilometers of racing trails we don’t know. It’s easy to get off line and smash rims. The foam protects the rims, and it has a different feel. It mutes the trails a bit. Some people don’t like that, but it works for me. I haven’t had a problem with my classic tubeless tire and rim setup, so for me it’s more of a prevention thing.
NT: What’s left to go in your season?
JM: There is one EWS round to go in Finale Ligure, Italy. It’s at the end of the month. I’m looking forward to it and finishing the series strong. I’m currently fifth overall and would like to keep that position.NT: You’ve ridden a lot of places. What are favorite places to ride and why?
JM: La Thuile, Italy is in the Italian Alps, which are just a cool place to be because it’s so scenic. The trails are so long from peak to valley. They take 15-20 minutes to ride down. I like the feel of those trails because they have good flow and are also fun. They are technical but not too crazy and steep. Finale Ligure is another favorite, but it’s the opposite as all the trails finish on the beach. They are fast and flowy and different to what I ride at home. Another cool place we raced this past year was Corral in Chile. Those trails weren’t designated bike trails, but they turned out to be fun to ride. They were infrastructure trails – not part of a bike destination. We had to take a ferry to the race location each morning.
NT: Would you ever own an e-mountain bike?
JM: Yeah, hopefully one day soon. I think they are controversial in a way, and I’ve ridden the one that Rocky Mountain makes. They’re a ton of fun to ride. As long as we can figure out a fair system for using them on trails, I think they’d be awesome. I don’t want to step on any toes, but it’d be cool to designate some e-bike trails since they are so much fun to ride.NT: What do you like to do when you’re not riding, training or racing?
JM: That’s a hard question because riding is pretty much all I do. I guess you could say that I like to eat and enjoy making good food. If I wasn’t a pro athlete working out every day, I’d probably get fat! My girlfriend also likes to camp, so we sometimes hike into places and camp. Before biking took off, I was also big into skiing, but now I have to limit how much of that I do because it’s dangerous.