By: Justin Felisko
July 20, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Nathan Schaper had no plans of going to the Park Rapids, Minnesota, Touring Pro Division event during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. He was extremely content hanging out at home and enjoying the weekend with family and friends.
That was until he took a glance at the PBR world standings and realized he was falling out of the Top 35.
Schaper quickly called the PBR’s competition department to enter the Park Rapids event and proceeded to finish in second and third-place for 50 world points courtesy of a 4-for-4 showing.
“The way it happened was I wasn’t doing the best and I was like, ‘Man I got to go,’” Schaper said Wednesday. “I was determined to go do something and get something done. That is what happened. I got on four bulls there and it worked out. It was a last minute deal where I wasn’t getting points anywhere else and I have to get something done somewhere one of these days.”
It was the beginning of a torrid July as Schaper built off his Park Rapids performance by nearly winning the Calgary Stampede last week.
In Calgary, Schaper went 4-for-6 and advanced to the Final 4 Round on Showdown Sunday for $26,833.
Schaper now heads into tonight’s Salinas, California, BlueDEF Tour event as one of the hottest riders in the PBR having ridden eight of his last 10.
“I felt good,” Schaper said while leaving Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. “I felt probably better than I have in a long time. I definitely drew some really good bulls, but I was really loose on them. I felt completely different.”
Instead of things seeming foggy or off-balance while riding, everything has fallen back into place for Schaper while he hunts down the 8-second mark.
“It is not a blur and it is not happening very fast,” he added. “It seems like in 3 seconds and the ride is over really. You can see everything going around you as you ride. To me, that is when I know I am riding good. I don’t have to think about anything. Your body just does it and your peripheral vision just gets wider. It is different.”
Schaper said that beyond just feeling good physically, he felt mentally refreshed after hosting some of his buddies, including Chase Outlaw, Cody Campbell, Douglas Duncan and Skeeter Kingsolver, at his house in Grassy Butte, North Dakota, last month and competing alongside some of the top rodeo stars in Calgary.
“I don’t feel like I was gone or I am back,” Schaper said. “I would say I am having more fun. You just have to make up your mind that you are going to start riding and enjoy every bit of it. I was having a blast. I love that rodeo. I had never been there before. It was cool riding with all of the greats in each rodeo event –Kaycee Field and Wade Sundell – all of those guys I really look up to.
Schaper earned an unofficial 32.5 points in Calgary, which should bump him to No. 35 in the world standings.
Therefore, the 25-year-old is getting himself on track for a potential return to the Built Ford Tough Series in August, beginning with the Music City Knockout, presented by Cooper Tires, on Aug. 19-20 in Nashville.
Schaper was cut from the BFTS following the first eight events this season and has since bounced between the BFTS and the PBR’s lower tours. Schaper is 8-for-31 in 12 BFTS events, but he is 19-for-36 at non-BFTS events.
“I am trying to get as many points as possible to make sure I am there after the break is over,” Schaper said. “Not just on the bubble, I want to be up a couple of ways.”
Fabiano Vieira, who also advanced to the Final 4 Round at the Calgary Stampede and went 4-for-6 as well, is also competing in Salinas Wednesday.
Vieira, the No. 3 ranked rider in the world standings, is one of 12 riders ranked inside the Top 35 of the world standings competing in California.
Other Top 10 riders competing in Salinas include No. 7 Shane Proctor, No. 8 Wallace de Oliveira and No. 9 Cooper Davis.
Schaper isn’t the only rider in Salinas competing for a BFTS spot come August.
Last year’s winner, Reese Cates, is only 135 points behind No. 35 Stormy Wing. Other riders such as No. No. 39 Brant Atwood, No. 40 Marco Eguchi and No. 43 Ty Pozzobon are trying to crack the Top 35 as well.
The winner of the Salinas BlueDEF Tour event will be given a BFTS exemption to Charlotte.
Cates admitted in June that this summer break is much different compared to last year when he was ranked ninth in the world standings following his victory in Salinas.
“It’s a different summer, but it is OK,” Cates said in Decatur, Texas. “I am trying to knock out as many of these events as I can right off the bat. That way I can still have a few events before Nashville to go home and work out and regroup. Get my body to feeling good.”
Cates is also set to compete at the Kasey Hayes and Stormy Wing Invitational in Guymon, Oklahoma, on Saturday.
The 27-year-old and 2008 Rookie of the Year is well aware that you have to keep your foot on the gas pedal during the summer months if you want to be competing at the final PBR Major of the season in Nashville.
“It is kind of a catch 22,” Cates said. “It is a long summer. You can’t put too much emphasis on any one particular event or bull, but each event and bull matters. If you keep telling yourself it is a long summer, a long summer and before you know it there is two weeks left before Nashville. It is important to stay motivated. It is important to stay focused.
You have to keep your eye of the prize and that is for me to have about three weeks at the end of the summer to go home, regroup and take care of myself for Nashville.”
Schaper next plans on competing at the Manor Fun Daze PBR Canada Touring Pro Division event Saturday night before making one last push qualify for Nashville.
He would love to kick off his current run with a victory in Salinas.
“I have always wanted to win Salinas,” Schaper said. “It is a pretty prestigious event. They give away a cool buckle. I have been here a lot and I have always wanted to win it. Maybe it will be this year.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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