Walla Walla, Wash., bull rider Derek Kolbaba arrived in Nampa this week on the best streak of his young career.
The 21-year-old had covered six straight bulls – meaning he had not been bucked during the allotted time – and won back-to-back events on the PBR 2017 Built Ford Tough Series to move from fifth to third in the season standings, with three regular season stops remaining.
But with his fate dependent on the unpredictability of that next 1,500-pound bull, Kolbaba knew there was no telling whether his winning streak would continue when the chute opened Saturday night at the Ford Idaho Center.
“You just kind of, I guess, get out of your own way and not really think about a streak or anything like that. Just go about it one bull at a time and focus on the task at hand,” Kolbaba said in an interview Friday. “You can’t really be thinking about your next week or maybe the bull after this one or even what happened last weekend, because in the end, it all doesn’t matter.
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“What matters is the bull that you’re getting on at the moment and just trying to make the best out of that.”
Alas, Kolbaba’s streak of really big moments came to an end on his first ride in Nampa. He made it 7.1 seconds on Rooster’s Egg before tumbling. The event continues today at 1:45 p.m.
Kolbaba’s best ride to date came last weekend in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he stayed aboard top-ranked SweetPro’s Bruiser until the whistle for a 93-point trip.
“He’s an awesome bull. I think I’ve been on him four times now, and I’ve rode him twice and he’s bucked me off twice,” Kolbaba said. “He’s one of them bulls that you dang sure can’t stub your toe or he’ll make you pay for it, but if you do things right, he’s gonna feel like a dream and you’re going to get a pile of points.”
Kolbaba needs every point he can get in what’s shaping up to be one of the closest races in series history. Heading into the Nampa stop, the top five riders in the world rankings were separated by less than 600 points. One rider could earn as many as 850 points this weekend.
Brazilian rider Eduardo Aparecido, who won in Nampa in 2014, leads the rankings with 4,105 points and $323,012.47 in earnings. Fellow Brazilian Kaique Pacheco is second with 3,740 points, and Kolbaba sits third with 3,652.50 points.
Jess Lockwood (3,610) and Cooper Davis (3,528.83) round out the top five, but Lockwood was not competing in Nampa after sustaining four broken ribs, a punctured lung and a lacerated kidney in Uniondale, N.Y., two weeks ago.
This weekend’s event featured two rounds of bull riding, with each rider getting one bull in the first round Saturday and one in the second round Sunday. The top 15 riders with the best combined scores advance to Sunday’s championship round.
“You dang sure have to have that confidence. Bull riding is 90 percent just mental. I’m not really focusing or saying anything about last week because obviously none of that matters now,” Kolbaba said. “... It’s always a new day, a new weekend, so we just got to go at it with the same attitude of just kind of sticking to the basics and doing whatever it takes to stay on.”