By: Justin Felisko
October 31, 2016
LAS VEGAS – Here are three things we learned from Round 2 of the BlueDEF Tour Finals on Sunday night at the South Point Arena.
The sound of the 8-second mark rang through the arena late Sunday night and Derek Kolbaba thought to himself, “Finally.”
Kolbaba rode Livin Large for 85.5 points to place third in Round 2 and overtake the BlueDEF Tour lead with one night remaining in the BlueDEF Tour season.
Even more so, Kolbaba ended a streak of 16 consecutive buckoffs at all levels of competition.
“That is what we came here to do,” Kolbaba said. “It is a little close to the World Finals, but it is a great stepping stone into it. I haven’t been riding the best, so to get something like that done boosts the confidence a whole lot. It is definitely something I needed, for sure.”
Kolbaba leads No. 2 BlueDEF Tour rider Emilio Resende by a slim 1.67 points. The race is even tighter seeing as both riders are tied for sixth-place in the event aggregate with identical 85.5-point rides.
Resende was bucked off by Last Minute in 3.3 seconds in Round 2, but he had previously ridden The Lunatic for 85.5 points in Round 1 on Saturday.
The winner of the BlueDEF Tour championship earns $50,000. The top two riders in the BlueDEF Tour standings, not already ranked inside the Top 35 of the world standings, also earn a trip to the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Wednesday.
“That is the other thing,” Kolbaba said. “The money here at the BlueDEF Finals is great. If anyone says $50,000 isn’t very much money then I probably wouldn’t listen to them. If I can come in here and be $50,000 richer going into the World Finals that always make it a whole lot better as well.”
Kolbaba has drawn Vegas Outlaw (8-3, BFTS) for Round 3, while Resende will take on Stone Cold Crazy (13-5, PBR).
Round 2 winner Neil Holmes and Nathan Schaper are the only two riders inside the Top 10 of the BlueDEF Tour standings with qualified rides this weekend.
Holmes won Round 2 with 88 points on Gambini.
“It was a good bull of Zane Cook’s,” Holmes said. “I was excited to get on him. It worked out. He had no tricks or nothing. He was around to the left and kept getting better and better. Thank God I was able to cover.”
It was only a year ago when Holmes finished seventh at the BlueDEF Velocity Tour Finals to earn a trip to the World Finals.
“That is the only reason I am here, to try and make it to the Finals,” Holmes said. “I thank the PBR for giving guys like myself a chance to still qualify. Hopefully, we can do it again.”
Holmes is seventh in the BlueDEF Tour standings and is only 151.67 points behind Kolbaba.
Schaper rode Chute Brute for 83 points in Round 2 to finish seventh in the round.
The problem for Schaper is he is sitting 14th in the event average and has yet to earn any world standings points. The No. 36 rider in the world still needs a ride tomorrow in Round 3 to try and qualify for the 10-man championship round, as well as to try and overcome the 7.5-point deficit between him and No. 35 Fraser Babbington.
Babbington was bucked off by Paradise City Slinger in 7.49 seconds.
Holmes has a Round 3 meeting with Redneck Reindeer, and Schaper is set to see Up North Express (8-4, PBR).
Babbington has drawn Fire House.
Barbosa only rider 2-for-2 and close to qualifying for the World Finals
Dener Barbosa has one thing on his mind, and that is a trip to the World Finals on Wednesday night.
It is why he turned down a re-ride option following his 51-point ride on Clifford.
“I watched a lot of video of the bulls before I come over,” Barbosa said with the help of Valdiron de Oliveira translating. “I know the re-ride bulls are not too easy to ride at this event. You watch this event. Today, not many guys ride.
“I didn’t want to take a re-ride because I am guaranteed to be 2-for-2. Right now, I am the only one 2-for-2.”
Not only is Barbosa leading the event average, but, more importantly, he is the top international rider heading into the final night of action Monday.
The top finishing international rider receives an automatic bid to the World Finals, which is something Barbosa said he is very much aware of.
“The other guys I am competing with to qualify for Wednesday, only one guy stay on his bull (tonight),” Barbosa said. “I wanted to guarantee to be 2-for-2.”
Cody Heffernan tied with Sage Kimzey (85 points on Scary Harry) for fourth-place in Round 2 with his 85-point ride on Red Fury.
“I should have rode that bull (King Buck) last night,” Heffernan said. “I had a kind of similar bull tonight, and I was able to get out of the well. He was getting me in there just a little bit toward the end and I was able to get back to the center. I was unable to do that on my first-round bull.”
Dakota Buttar is the only other international invite with a qualified ride thanks to his 84-point ride on El Guerrero in Round 1. Buttar was bucked off by Scotty’s Crossroads in 2.48 seconds during Round 2 and came up severely favoring his left knee.
The path to the Finals is simple for Barbosa.
He just needs to make the 8-second mark on Monday night.
He has drawn All Shook Up (2-2, BFTS) for Round 3.
“Tomorrow, I stay on another bull and I am guaranteed to ride at the Finals,” he concluded with a smile.
Heffernan closing in on Top 35
The other scenario working in Barbosa’s favor is the fact that Babbington is 0-for-2.
Yes, Babbington is not in the running for one of the international wild card spots, but Babbington is the current holder of the 35th spot in the world standings.
Heffernan’s Round 2 performance has him tied with Buttar for 37th in the world standings. The two international wild card contenders are only 13.34 points behind Babbington.
If either rider cracks the Top-35 of the world standings, they would no longer be eligible for the international wild card position because they would have already qualified for the World Finals.
Heffernan knows he is right on the cusp of qualifying for his first World Finals.
“It isn’t really bothering me,” Heffernan said. “I have just been fighting with my head lately. That is all that has been worrying me, just getting some bulls rode. Not the points.
“It is pretty close. One bull will make a big difference. I know that much.”
Heffernan has never qualified for the World Finals. A ride against Shakey in Round 3 may go a long to helping him get to T-Mobile Arena Wednesday night.
“It has been pretty well documented that I went back to Australia and won the title and then the goal was to be on the Built Ford Tough Series,” Heffernan said. “It didn’t quite pan out the way I wanted it to during the second half of the season. I am just trying to gain some confidence and ride some bulls tomorrow night and crack the Top 35.
“That would mean the world to me.”
According to Rich Blyn of PBR Sports Medicine, world No. 11 Paulo Lima is out of competition Monday night because of a fractured jaw he sustained in Tucson, Arizona.
Michael Lane is questionable for Round 3 because of a left ankle sprain.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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