Kolbaba’s Cross-Country Adventure Pays Off

By: Justin Felisko
February 12, 2018

Derek Kolbaba is 11th in the world standings. Photo: Andy Watson/

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It took Derek Kolbaba nearly 30 hours to simply make it Kansas City this weekend after a series of flight problems on Saturday caused him to miss Round 1 of the Caterpillar Classic.

However, all Kolbaba needed was 16 seconds on Sunday for his best performance of 2018.

Kolbaba rode Chute Boss for 87.25 points inside the Sprint Center in Round 2 and followed that up with 83.5 points on Smooth Wreck in the championship round to finish in fourth-place overall with a season-best 215 world points.

“That is kind of what I had in mind coming here,” Kolbaba said. “It sucks missing that first round, but every damn point matters and I kind of needed some points anyways. I just felt solid on both of them bulls.”

Kolbaba heads into next weekend’s St. Louis Invitational, presented by Express Employment Professionals, 11th in the world standings and 920 points behind world leader Dener Barbosa.

Some questioned why Kolbaba would bother still flying to Kansas City to compete, especially once they learned of how hard it was for him to make it in time for Championship Sunday.

“A lot of people were like, ‘You missed your first bull, why come for the second one?’” Kolbaba said. “But I knew Chute Boss was going to be great. All I had to do was my part, and heck, it worked out great.”

Kolbaba was supposed to fly out of Pasco, Washington, on Saturday at 6 a.m. before the aircraft he was boarding had a flat tire. Thirty minutes into the maintenance repair, it was learned that the airport did not have another tire handy.

Therefore, Kolbaba then spent six hours trying to re-book to a different flight in hopes of making it in time for Round 1. The Walla Walla, Washington, bull rider eventually raised the white flag in hopes of riding in Round 1 and banked on simply arriving in Kansas City by midnight.

Things only got worse, though, when Kolbaba learned that his flight was cancelled because of an issue with the on-plane fire extinguisher.

The 21-year-old then finally decided to give up on flying out of Pasco and scrambled into his car and drove four hours to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to board a red-eye flight to Atlanta.

Once in Atlanta, Kolbaba found a cozy bench to curl up on for a quick 2-hour powernap before boarding another flight to Kansas City.

The third-year pro finally made it to Missouri by 10:30 a.m. – nearly 30 hours after his roughly 4,000-mile journey began.

“It was a lot of flying, but, hell, I figured we had a great bull today so I couldn’t stay home,” Kolbaba said. I felt good. It was like I was back to rodeoing or something.”

Kolbaba admitted it is frustrating to wonder what could have been if he had been able to attempt to ride Striker in Round 1.

Regardless, he still took care of business for $10,950.

“Unfortunately, it happened that way,” Kolbaba said. “Usually it works flying same day. I was supposed to get here at 1:30 (on Saturday). That was quite a bit of leeway for delays, but things like that happen and it’s like, ‘What the hell?’

“It sucks, but everything happens for a reason. I probably won’t fly day-of anymore unless it is on the West Coast in California.”

You would think Kolbaba would have been sick of airports and flying come Sunday evening, but Kolbaba only had one thing on his mind as he was briskly packing up his gear bag in the locker room.

“I am ready to go home,” Kolbaba concluded with a smirk. “I have a 5:55 p.m. flight to catch.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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