PUEBLO, Colo. – Derek Kolbaba was making the 13-hour drive to Edmonton, Alberta, last week for the inaugural PBR Global Cup and one number kept popping into his mind every now and then.
That was the deficit between him and 2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood in the final world standings that saw Kolbaba finish runner-up in the world title race.
Not that he could change anything, but of course his mind wandered down the what-if path in those first few days after the 2017 PBR World Finals.
“It dang sure sucked ending up second,” Kolbaba said. “You then kind of look at the points break and you go, ‘Shit it was really a lot closer than I thought.’
“Just a lot of missed opportunities. Not even thinking about the Finals. Just all year. It seemed like I either won or I didn’t do anything. There are so many bulls that if a guy can get second or third or fourth. That point gap wouldn’t have been there.”
There was no rider as hot or cold as Derek Kolbaba in 2017.
The old analogy of swinging for the fences could apply to Kolbaba as well.
The Walla Walla, Washington, cowboy led the PBR with five event wins in the regular season, but he also went rideless in 11 of the 27 Built Ford Tough Series events. Kolbaba also went 0-for-10 in the 15/15 Bucking Battles.
Kolbaba finished the season a career-best 30-for-87 and second overall, but he knows a 34.48 percent riding percentage wasn’t going to be enough to win the prestigious World Champion gold buckle.
There was also his 1-for-17 start to the second half of the BFTS that also played a role in his ultimate shortcomings.
Even just a couple rides here and there could have been the difference, a disappointed Kolbaba admitted.
“After it was all over, I had seen how close it actually was,” Kolbaba said. “You start going back in your head second-guessing things, which doesn’t do a damn thing. Not really second guess, but just thinking if you would have done this better or rode here or won there and picked up some round points is crazy. That would have been just fine. You look at those (13) straight buckoffs or going two weekends in a row not getting anything rode was huge.”
“Next year I am just going to try to close that up and try to win more. There is nothing you can do about it now and all I am going to do is focus on this next year.”
Kolbaba begins his pursuit of the 2018 World Championship by competing at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in New Town, North Dakota, on Friday and Saturday night.
Some of the other top riders expected to compete in New Town are Fabiano Vieira, Rubens Barbosa, J.W. Harris, Tanner Byrne and Valdiron de Oliveira.
Oliveira is competing in his first event in the United States after previously retiring at the 2015 PBR World Finals, while Harris decided to ride seeing as he won’t be getting surgery for his torn abdomen until Dec. 14.
Kolbaba, though, is healthy as can be and is ready to turn on the jets for 2018.
“This next year I need to be a little more consistent and make every bull count,” Kolbaba said. “Not just say, ‘Hell either I will win or fall off.”
Regardless of coming up short in his bid to win the 2017 World Championship, the year was still a successful one for Kolbaba.
If you count his winnings from Team USA’s Global Cup victory, which will go toward his 2018 season total, Kolbaba earned over $411,000 in 2017.
That alone is more than two times what he had previously earned in his entire career.
“Compared to last sure, it was a hell of a lot better,” Kolbaba said. “Second is better than 17th, but at the end of the day, it is kind of the same. You can’t take away and say it was a terrible year. It was a good year. You just have to pick it up a notch.”
He later concluded, “The sooner you just forget about it and take the good away from it, the better off you will be.”
© 2018 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.