PUEBLO, Colo. – Matt Triplett still remembers how hard it was to tell two-time World Champion Justin McBride that he wouldn’t be able to ride at the 2017 Edmonton Global Cup last November.
Triplett had hoped he could still compete at a high level and put off reconstructive left shoulder surgery one more week, but he quickly realized at the 2017 PBR World Finals that he simply would be a detriment to Team USA rather than a positive.
“That was probably one of the hardest things I had to do,” Triplett said on Thursday night. “That was the first Global Cup they had in years and it was just an honor to get the call and be on Team USA. I knew to myself if I wasn’t 110 percent and wasn’t able to perform at the best of my ability. I couldn’t represent Team USA and be an asset to my team.”
Fast-forward five months and Triplett’s name has been called upon to help out the red, white and blue after Cody Teel decided to pull out of the Sydney Global Cup because of his broken left ankle this week.
Triplett has accepted the invitation from Team USA head coach Justin McBride to replace Teel on the roster for the June 9-10 Global Cup event in Sydney, Australia.
The 26-year-old joins 2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood, 2017 runner-up Derek Kolbaba, 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis, Cody Nance, Stetson Lawrence, Brennon Eldred and Keyshawn Whitehorse on the team.
Triplett returned to competition only three weeks ago, but Triplett was hopeful he could do enough to convince McBride that he could be counted on if any member of Team USA had to miss the event.
“I was actually surprised because I knew they already had the team picked,” Triplett said. “I just wanted to still have that option in his ear. I would still go and talk to him as much as I could. I always talk to Justin, he is a friendly guy. He was giving me pointers at my first event back, and I was like, ‘Dang I wish he would be my coach for the deal.’”
Triplett is 3-for-6 so far in his return to competition after he missed four months following his second surgery on his left shoulder in three years.
McBride said it is quite fitting that a rider that put the team first last year will now get the opportunity to take the spot of another rider putting his team and his country over his own individual goals.
“It sucks Teel can’t go,” McBride said. “He was going to try like hell and do what is ever asked of him. That really sucks losing him, but I am glad Triplett is going to go. He looks like he wants to ride. He looks like he is excited to be back riding. He was originally on that first team and injuries kept him out. I am glad he is getting better for this one. He missed that first one and it worked out really good.”
McBride added that Triplett will be placed in the lineup, while Keyshawn Whitehorse will remain as an alternate for the time being.
Teel had spent the last three weeks debating what he should do.
The 25-year-old had a follow-up with Dr. Jacob Zide on Monday in Dallas that ultimately helped him make his final decision.
“Everything looks good, but I just have four more weeks being in a walking boot,” Teel said.
Zide put four screws and two plates in Teel’s ankle.
“My next follow-up wouldn’t be until June 7, when I would be cleared,” Teel continued. “Technically, I would already be in Australia. If it was an individual deal, I would probably just wait until the last minute and see what I can do. But it is kind of hard to get a guy to go to Australia last minute, so I don’t want to be selfish and not know.”
Teel is hopeful he will be ready to return to riding in mid-to-late June.
“It is good,” Teel added. “I am not ready to get on anything right now, but it is getting better. I dang sure wanted to go to Australia, but I don’t want to put everyone in a predicament last minute. It could be perfectly fine, but I just don’t know.”
Meanwhile, Triplett knows he has big shoes to fill in regards to replacing Teel.
Teel is ranked 11th in the world standings and was sitting eighth in the rankings prior to breaking his ankle in Glendale, Arizona, at the end of March.
Teel also was a member of last year’s winning team at the Global Cup.
“We won it last time so we have to carry that over,” Triplett said. “We have a really great team and a strong team behind us. I am just excited to try my heart out and give it all I got.
“It is a huge accomplishment to be on this team.”
Triplett is competing Friday night at the Nipawin Rona PBR Classic PBR Canada Touring Pro Division event in Saskatchewan before competing at the PBR Canada Monster Energy Tour event in Ottawa on Saturday.
The Columbia Falls, Montana, bull rider is 65th in the world standings after earning 120 points in his first two events back.
Triplett has signed up for events every weekend leading up to the Global Cup so that he knock off any remaining cobwebs before he arrives on the Gold Coast.
Points and momentum is on his mind.
“Me being out for as long as I was, I still need to go get those points,” Triplett concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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