PUEBLO, Colo. – With the final BlueDEF Tour event of the calendar year taking place Sunday night in Cincinnati, PBR.com takes a look back at some memorable moments on the BlueDEF Tour this year.
Pacheco proves his merit with 94-point ride (Guymon, Oklahoma)
Kaique Pacheco was right in the thick of the world title race in July when he sat his gear bag down in the outdoor Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena for the Kasey Hayes & Stormy Wing Invitational in Guymon, Oklahoma.
There have been plenty of historical rides throughout the course of the Pioneer Days rodeo in the small Oklahoma town, however Pacheco wound up putting together the highest-scored ride of the BlueDEF Tour season on a hot summer night when he rode Bruiser for 94 points.
The ride would go down as his best of 2015, and the best of his career to date.
“It was very difficult to ride Bruiser,” Pacheco said through a translator in Guymon. “I was hoping he would go to the left and I had to give everything I got to get 8 seconds.”
Pacheco was able to not get toppled during Bruiser’s initial strong exit out of the bucking chute into his right hand before handling H.D. Page’s bull’s powerful spin away from his hand. Then after demonstrating dominant poise and posture for most of the ride, Pacheco was able to hang on in the final seconds as Bruiser resulted to two final heavy-dosed leaps off his four legs.
Pacheco was fourth in the world and finished the event in second-place to Hayes, who rode DaNutso for 92 points to earn the victory, but the talk for the rest of the PBR summer would circle around the memorable ride Pacheco put together.
Even Hayes left Guymon in awe of the young 20-year-old.
“How about freaking Kaique?” Hayes asked in Guymon. “Ninety-four points. That was an amazing bull ride. I have not seen too many 94-point bull rides and it was worth it. It was definitely worth it. My hat is off to Kaique.”
The ride proved that Pacheco — the only right-handed rider to conquer Bruiser in 12 outs — had the strength, poise and ability to ride the ranker bulls on the BFTS.
Coincidentally, Bruiser would go on to finish second in the 2015 World Champion Bull race, while Pacheco would finish second to 2015 World Champion J.B. Mauney.
Gay steals BlueDEF Championship from Pacheco (Louisville, Kentucky)
It had appeared for most of the 2015 BlueDEF season everyone had already decided to award the BlueDEF championship to Pacheco.
However, like so many past instances in the world title race at the World Finals, Gage Gay proved that a late comeback is always possible – even at the BlueDEF level.
Gay went 3-for-3, including an 88.5-point ride on Legal Tender, to usurp Pacheco, who went 0-for-2, in the standings and earn a career-high $84,000.
“I didn’t know I had as good a chance as I did,” Gay admitted while holding his two makeshift checks inside the KFC Yum! Center. “After (Round 1), I talked with my Dad and he told me I was only 150 points behind.”
Gay finished 2015 ranked 14th in the world standings and would never have made it to the Finals without being able to earn his way back to the BFTS through the BlueDEF Tour.
He was cut from the PBR’s top tour in March, and immediately won the Hampton, Virginia, event with a 3-for-4 performance. Three weeks later, Gay went 2-for-2 to win the BlueDEF event in Omaha, Nebraska.
Gay’s three BlueDEF Tour victories were second-most behind Pacheco’s BDT-high four.
2010 World Champion Nunes sweeps (Bismarck, North Dakota)
While it wasn’t a BFTS victory, 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes posted two final victories on the BlueDEF Tour before officially retiring during the 2015 World Finals.
It was almost too fitting that Nunes earned back-to-back victories at the BlueDEF events in Bismarck, North Dakota, where reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger puts on his annual event.
Both Nunes and Berger are sponsored by Cooper Tires and have become good friends during Nunes’ career.
“It worked out well,” Nunes said. “I am so glad for Chad to bring so many good bulls to this event. He is not just my favorite stock contractor, but he is one of my best friends. That is why I am here and that is why I hang out with him all the time. He is one of my best friends in the United States.”
Nunes went a combined 4-for-4 in Bismarck, highlighted by an 89.5-point ride on Wipeout.
Duncan responds to being cut from BFTS late in the season (Cleveland, Ohio)
Douglas Duncan was mad and embarrassed as he packed his bags in Springfield, Missouri, this past September after realizing he was going to be cut from the BFTS.
He had dropped to 40th in the world standings and was in good jeopardy of missing the World Finals for the first time in his career.
So how did he respond?
Well, Duncan went 4-for-4 at the BlueDEF event in Pendleton, Oregon, to jump to 38th in the world standings.
Three days later when his buddies were at the BFTS event in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duncan then went 2-for-2 to win the Cleveland, Ohio, BlueDEF event.
“I can’t even explain it to you the feeling I had walking out of the Springfield locker room knowing I wasn’t going to Charlotte,” Duncan said in September. “I didn’t sleep on the plane ride to Pendleton. Nobody is harder on myself than me. I know what I am capable of and I know where I should be. I know it dang sure shouldn’t be around No. 35. I know that.”
The win not only guaranteed Duncan a spot in the draw for the regular-season BFTS finale in Tucson, Arizona, but it would help him qualify for the BlueDEF Finals.
It was then at the BlueDEF Finals where Duncan earned an important 15 points toward the standings via a 12th-place finish to officially qualify for the World Finals as the 35th rider in the world standings.
Who is that kid from Walla Walla, Washington?
By now, PBR fans are pretty well aware of Derek Kolbaba. The 19-year-old from Walla Walla, Washington, qualified for the World Finals through the BlueDEF Finals and has already won a 2016 BlueDEF Tour event to earn a spot in the BFTS regular-season opener in Chicago next month.
But how did Kolbaba go from relative unknown to 19-year-old upcoming star?
It all started with his 2-for-3 victory in Pendleton, Oregon. He sealed the victory on RMEF Team Elk with an 88.5-point effort and would then earn the first qualified ride of his BFTS career with an 82.25-point ride on Rojo in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
“I try and focus on what I need to do and keep things simple,” he said. “He went away from my hand. Just a nice pretty, little bull. It was pretty good to get that first one down. It wasn’t much, but I was happy to get him rode and I am ready for tomorrow.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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