For most athletes, breaking a bone in the middle of a season would be devastating.
This season, Jesse Melamed had to endure that hardship twice.
After suffering a broken collarbone during the third Enduro World Series (EWS) race of the season in France and subsequently receiving surgery, the Whistler mountain biker returned to the circuit six weeks later to clinch a season-best fourth-place result in La Thuile, Italy in July. But just 12 weeks after surgery—right around the time he should have been officially cleared to be back in the saddle—Melamed was preparing to race in the CamelBak Canadian Open in Whistler (as its defending champion) when he crashed in training and broke his hand.
“It’s tough because you train all winter long and obviously you want to start the season strong and I did start the season strong, which was great ... I was just kind of getting back up, back to where I was and I was really happy and then I crashed and broke my hand, so the second time was even worse than the first time,” he recalled, adding that injuries are, “part of this sport. Crashes happen. I really feel like I got unlucky with my crashes ... the hand was just, I just think unfortunate. I crash like that all the time and I just must have whacked it on something.”
Nonetheless, Melamed managed to get back on the bike after both injuries. He returned to race in the final two EWS rounds of the season last month, finishing eighth in Spain on Sept. 23 and seventh in Finale Ligure, Italy on Sept. 30.
The final races “went I guess better than I expected, but also I’m a competitor so I always want to do well, even if I had a broken hand,” he said. “It’s good, (but) I just know I can do a little bit better (in Finale Ligure). It’s just so fun to race in that town with the people cheering. It’s good food and good views, and it’s just a good place to end the season regardless of the result.”
Good results are something Melamed has become accustomed to: he’s finished inside the top 10 in his last 10 EWS races. That consistency worked well enough to earn him ninth place in this year’s EWS overall standings, despite missing two of the eight rounds.
Melamed said he was “definitely” surprised to still crack the overall top-10 after being forced to take several weeks off riding.
“I don’t really think too much about the overall, or I try not to. I just go race my race and do the best I can, so to finish ninth overall is a nice way to look back on a season and know that it wasn’t a complete disaster,” he added.
Of overcoming a second injury in the same season, Melamed said: “I guess I just had confidence (because) I came back from my collarbone really well that I could come from the hand as well.”
He acknowledged that being forced to take a break in the midst of a long, stressful season also has a positive aspect.
“I just trust that I am a good rider and I am fit. A lot of us kind of over-train, so when you get four or five weeks off, you can lose a little but of fitness but you can gain a lot of rest, so ... if you’re doing it properly, you’re going to come back pretty well,” he explained.