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Derek Kolbaba at the Columbus PBR Unleash the Beast.

Kolbaba Takes Advantage Of Youth And Experience

May 092019

Whenever Derek Kolbaba stops to think about the success he’s had riding bulls up in Canada, funny and luck are the first two things that come to mind.

It’s funny to think a lot of his success has come at the same events year after year and he admits that he’s “been pretty lucky to have some pretty good luck” north of the border.

Kolbaba won the Iron Cowboy, in Quebec City, Canada, for the second time in three years this past weekend. More importantly, the Monster Energy Tour event was a major and earned Kolbaba 350 points to move the Walla Walla, Washington native from 11th to seventh in the PBR world standings.

“It hasn't really felt any different,” Kolbaba said. “It’s just one of those deals where I knew what was up for grabs and the points that were available. Right now it's go time. We gotta go and grab up as many points as we can and keep jamming away.”


Kolbaba described the Canadian events as “really good” and added, “The bulls are always outstanding.”


“It's always great when you can go back to a place that you have some success and then repeat that success again,” said Kolbaba, who doesn’t know the reason for it. “Shoot, we need to start making it about everywhere we go.”


In the past month, he has had success everywhere he’s gone.


He recorded back-to-back Top 5 finishes – Billings, Montana, followed by Columbus, Ohio – at the elite televised level of competition and was second in the 15/15 Bucking Battle in Columbus.


And now an event win in Quebec City.


It’s a three-week span that saw him turn his 2019 season around from “piss-poor” to making “sure that we finish the year off a hell of a lot better.”


“The amount of points that was up for grabs there, in Quebec, that was a substantial amount of points to go win outside of the Unleash the Beast Tour,” Kolbaba said, “and it dang sure helps me gain some ground on that spot that we want to be.”


The last time he won that event—2017—Kolbaba went into the World Finals the No. 1 ranked bull rider in the world.


But he finished the season second.


“I think in bull riding, it's all about experience,” said Kolbaba, who two years later has better understanding of the pressure that comes with vying for a world title. “It's hard to kinda control all that when you're a little younger and maybe not had as much experience. I feel like one of the old guys in the locker room nowadays, so that experience level obviously helps. And every bull that you get on is always a learning curve.”


At 23-years-old, he’s still relatively young.


But he’s been around long enough—five years—to have the experience of a veteran and he understands the urgency of winning now.


“A career doesn't last that long,” Kolbaba said. “There's kind of a short window that you got ... that's not going to be there for very long.”


He recognizes that he’s in his prime—right now—and the important of taking advantage of his youth and experience, while he can.


“You're always, always striving to get better and a lot of that comes with the mental side of things,” Kolbaba said. “When you're young and obviously the talent's there, sometimes the mental focus just isn't quite there yet. That just comes with age and experience and putting yourself in those situations.”


For Kolbaba, that is the biggest difference between 2017 and 2019.


In the meantime, he’ll take this weekend off and then join the rest of the Top 35 riders in the world—including fellow Monster Energy riders Jose Vitor Leme, 1; Chase Outlaw, 2; Cannon Cravens, 14; J.B. Mauney, 23; and Marco Eguchi, 26—in Albuquerqe, New Mexico, for a three-day televised event.