By: Justin Felisko
April 14, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Derek Kolbaba wasn’t really planning on going to this coming Saturday’s Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in Yakima, Washington, but he figured there is no sense in slowing down when you are clicking on all cylinders.
The No. 6 ranked bull rider in the world standings cooled off a bit last weekend at the Stanley Performance In Action Invitational, going 2-for-4, but Kolbaba’s 70 percent riding percentage in his last 10 outs is still best among the Top 10 in the world standings.
“It is just a great feeling when you are getting on a roll,” Kolbaba said. “Sliding up confident, you know whether he goes left, right, straight, or whatever he is going to do, you are going to be there and finish strong.”
Kolbaba is 18-for-45 through the first 14 Built Ford Tough Series events and he is two qualified rides away from breaking his career high of 19 that he set last season.
The 20-year-old is having a breakout season with two victories, five Top-10 finishes and a boatload of confidence.
Therefore, when he saw Yakima – which is a hop, skip and 2-hour drive away from his hometown of Walla Walla – on the schedule, he decided why not enter himself in the competition seeing as the BFTS is on break for the Easter holiday.
“I don’t see the reason not to,” Kolbaba said. “I rather just keep getting on bulls and keep the blood flowing and the muscle memory working.”
He previously went 2-for-3 at the 2015 Yakima Velocity Tour event.
Earlier this season, Kolbaba had gone 1-for-15 before winning his second event of the season in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The third-year pro is 9-for-15 since the victory and has truly entrenched himself in the thick of the world title race.
Kolbaba trails world leader Eduardo Aparecido by 1,195 points.
“I am just taking it to them every jump,” Kolbaba said. “Keeping that intensity from when we hang our bull ropes till the last 2 seconds of a ride. It is just finishing them and taking the intensity to them.
“Does it feel great to be close to No. 1 or No. 2? You bet. It gives a guy a little more confidence and so right now we are taking it one bull at a time and just try and spur everything we get on.”
Kolbaba has drawn Nobody’s Sugar for Round 1.
The competition begins at 7 p.m. PT inside the Yakima Valley SunDome.
No. 13 Joao Ricardo Vieira, No. 34 Luis Blanco and No. 35 Robson Aragao are the other Top 35 bull riders in the world standings schedule to be competing in Yakima.
Prior to the Billings event, Kolbaba helped out coaching at Shane Proctor’s annual bull riding school in Grand Coulee, Washington.
Proctor continues to be impressed by Kolbaba’s growth from a pupil at his camp to a bonafide PBR star.
“You are watching him mature as the season goes on,” Proctor said. “It is just experience. It is pretty neat to watch him go as he is going through the year. Each and every bull he is learning something. He isn’t just relying on what worked beforehand, he is using something new.”
Two-time World Champion Justin McBride has been pretty high on Kolbaba since he began riding at PBR events in 2015.
“Kolbaba is a really good young guy,” McBride said. “He has a lot of ability and a lot of talent. He has a bright future and he rides really, really good. He has great balance.”
This weekend is the first of two PBR events in Washington.
The BFTS resumes on April 22 with the Tacoma Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires.
“It is nice,” Kolbaba said. “I don’t have to worry about driving and getting on a plane. It is just another bull riding in the backyard. It is fun. It is exciting. The family gets to come out. It just pumps you up that much more.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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