By: Darci Miller
PUEBLO, Colo. – The PBR is back in action, and in a way that you’ve never seen it before.
The PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, will run from June 5-28 at the South Point Hotel Casino and Spa in Las Vegas, and culminate in a Championship Weekend Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on July 10-12 in front of fans. The event will feature 12 teams and 48 bull riders, with each team consisting of four riders, and there will be two divisions of six teams. The Top 3 teams in each division will then qualify for Championship Weekend.
Each of the 12 competing teams will be comprised of three active riders, one of whom is the Captain, an alternate, and a supervisory General Manager.
Division A will hold its first weekend of competition June 5-7, followed by its final weekend of play June 12-14. Teams to be announced in Division B will compete the weekends of June 19-21 and June 26-28. Each night of televised action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, will feature three games, with each team competing once per night at the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena.
Each game will be comprised of 12 collective outs, with each team attempting six bulls. In each game, three riders per team, as selected by the General Manager, will attempt two bulls each. The winner of each game will be the team with the top combined aggregate score from their six outs.
On Wednesday, the first six teams – comprising Division A – were announced. In the lead-up to competition, PBR.com will be diving deeper into each roster.
The next team on the docket, led by general manager Jerome Robinson, features team captain and world No. 20 Derek Kolbaba, No. 9 Cole Melancon, Jordan Spears and Eli Vastbinder.
Read on to learn more about Team Kolbaba, and stay tuned for more on the rest of Division A.
Kolbaba is currently ranked No. 20 in the world standings, which is no small feat, but compared to what he’s achieved in the past, it’s been a disappointing 2020 campaign so far. He finished No. 11 in the world in both 2019 and 2018, and was runner-up to Jess Lockwood for the 2017 World Championship. This season, Kolbaba is 9-for-35 on the premier series, with a fifth-place finish at the Express Ranches Invitational and third in the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Kolbaba also has team experience, having competed at three PBR Global Cups. He represented the Team USA Eagles in Edmonton in 2017, Sydney in 2018 and Arlington in 2019, winning the title in 2017, and is 3-for-7 all-time. He also took part in Chad Berger’s $125,000 team challenge in 2019, riding Biker Bob for 93.75 points on the historic night of eight 90-point rides.
When Melancon was named to Team USA for the 2017 PBR Global Cup in Edmonton, he was a relative unknown in the PBR, with just that year’s THE AMERICAN and Velocity Tour Finals under his belt. But he helped the U.S. win the Global Cup title and, when he returned to PBR competition again in 2020, he was no longer an unknown.
Melancon made history at Iron Cowboy in Los Angeles, becoming just the second rookie ever to win a PBR major, and doing so in his Unleash The Beast debut. His performance caught the eye of Team USA Eagles head coach Justin McBride, who named him to his Global Cup squad. And again, Melancon helped the U.S. to the title. He’s 4-for-6 all-time in Global Cup competition, and is currently ranked No. 8 in the world standings.
The Monster Energy Team Challenge will be Spears’s first PBR event. He’s qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo four times – in 2014, 2016-17 and 2019 – and finished 2019 No. 6 in the PRCA bull riding standings. In 2019, he placed in four rounds of the NFR, placing third overall.
Vastbinder has also spent his fair share of time on the rodeo circuit, but has competed on the PBR’s Velocity Tour since 2014. His best finish this season was a fourth-place performance in Jacksonville, Florida, in January. In rodeo, meanwhile, he qualified for the NFR in 2018 and finished that year ranked No. 9 in the PRCA bull riding standings, and was ranked No. 21 in 2019.
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