By: Justin Felisko
ARLINGTON, Texas – Cole Melancon remembers the social media questions that popped up in 2017 when Team USA coach Justin McBride named him and Brennon Eldred to the American squad that was set to invade Edmonton, Alberta, for the first-ever Global Cup.
Newly minted 2017 PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood, No. 19 Matt Triplett and No. 6 Chase Outlaw all had to drop out of the Global Cup that year because of injuries sustained at the PBR World Finals, and McBride was tasked with getting creative as multiple riders were unable to accept a spot in Edmonton.
Then 23 years old, Melancon was a relative unknown to PBR fans.
He had won the national collegiate bull riding championship earlier in the year, and he had just qualified for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
It did not take long for Melancon to make a lasting impression upon PBR fans, his coach and the rest of the American squad.
Melancon went a perfect 2-for-2, including, an 82.5-point ride on Bourbon Oak that required him gritting out the last few seconds by hanging off the side of the bull, as the Americans won the inaugural Global Cup.
“It was so special for us going in there for the first one, and getting a win was even better,” Melancon recalled last weekend during Iron Cowboy. “I thought it was funny. Nobody knew who I was. There was questions like, ‘Who the crap is this?’”
Melancon then fell off the PBR radar following his memorable moment in Edmonton. He would only compete in three more PBR-sanctioned events while focusing on his rodeo career and having success in the PRCA.
That is, until this past weekend, and McBride has once again summoned Melancon last minute.
This time, though, Melancon will be a recognizable name following his impressive victory at Iron Cowboy, presented by Ariat, last weekend in downtown Los Angeles.
Melancon rode Spotted Demon for 89.75 points in Round 4 after finding out last-minute that he was replacing Ryan Dirteater (thoracic fractures) in the draw despite his 5.79-second buckoff against Big Black Cat in Round 3.
The ride proved to be the difference-maker for Melancon when both he and world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira both bucked off their respective bulls in the final round of competition. Melancon won the Iron Cowboy title based on the first tiebreaker, which was the event average.
Melancon had less than five minutes to prepare for his matchup against Spotted Demon. In fact, he had already slipped off his spurs, figuring he was done for the weekend, until he saw Dirteater walk by the locker room in a lot of pain.
It did not take long before PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert told him he was in, and Ezekiel Mitchell was running out of the locker room with Melancon’s bull rope to place it on Spotted Demon while Melancon finished getting ready.
The matchup between Melancon and Spotted Demon was a rodeo cowboy vs. 2018 PRCA Bull of the Year.
“I never had been on him, and back in his day, he still bucks, but he used to be a lot more treacherous and a hard-to-ride bull,” Melancon said. “I watched a lot of guys get on him, and a lot of guys do the windmill around his head. Watching him, I was like, ‘I don’t want to get on him.’
“This past year, year and a half, he has kind of mellowed out. He is dang sure one you want to get on, and I was excited to have him. After I seen a couple of guys ride him, and a couple of trips he would go back left, I said if I drew him, I would not be worried about getting on him. I had the opportunity tonight, and it worked out.”
Rides like the one Melancon made on Spotted Demon, and the grit he showed attempting to ride Rising Sun (7.43 seconds) Saturday night inside the STAPLES Center, are reasons why McBride had no qualms about replacing 2019 Rookie of the Year Dalton Kasel with Melancon.
McBride had also been keeping an eye on Melancon, who surged to No. 6 in the world standings by becoming the second rookie in PBR history to win a major, in recent weeks as the injuries on his team began to pile up.
“We watched him at Fort Worth and the Xtreme Bulls,” McBride said. “I know he is doing good at the Touring Pros, and he has a lot going in his favor. He has been there at Global Cup, and he has gotten better. He has improved. He is still a little bit stiff on these level of bulls, but we have good options.”
When Melancon was 14 years old, he attended a bull riding school of Travis Briscoe’s, and inside Briscoe’s house was his Team USA riding chaps and gear from the 2010 World Cup event.
Now Melancon has his own jersey for the second time, and he will team up with two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood, six-time PRCA champion Sage Kimzey, Matt Triplett, Boudreaux Campbell and 2012 PRCA Champion Cody Teel this weekend in Arlington as Team USA tries to win its second Global Cup title in three years.
“It would be cool to do it again,” Melancon said. “Win or lose it is still fun, but being a member of the winning team is so much better.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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