PUEBLO, Colo. – The last time PBR fans were following Cole Melancon north of the border, Melancon was evolving from Mr. Irrelevant to a key contributor for Team USA at the inaugural PBR Global Cup event in Edmonton, Alberta.
Fast forward eight months and Melancon is returning to Canada for the first time since helping Team USA win the Edmonton Global Cup when he competes Friday in Pool A at the Calgary Stampede.
The bull riding at the Calgary Stampede is sanctioned by the PBR, and, therefore, this will be Melancon’s PBR season debut.
Melancon had originally planned to make a run at the PBR in January and February, but he ultimately had to undergo surgery after the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to repair a herniated disc that was giving him fits throughout the second half of 2017.
“All the pain is just about gone,” Melancon said at Chad Berger’s $100,000 Match of Champions last month. “I am glad I took the time and get that fixed. I returned at the end of February/beginning of March. That is what held my plans up on going to some PBRs. I was going to go to some of them during our slow time in January and February, but I ended up having to get that surgery. I figured I would give them a run next year. I am going to try and do some next year.”
Dr. John Stokes performed the surgery in Austin, Texas.
Melancon – the 2017 College National Finals Rodeo bull riding champion – is riding at The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth for the first time.
Competing alongside Melancon in Pool A is 2016 PBR World Champion Cooper Davis, 2014 Calgary Stampede winner Scott Schiffner, Fabiano Vieira, Chase Outlaw, Todd Chotowetz, Joe Frost, 2016 Canadian Pro Rodeo Association champion Jordan Hansen, Garrett Smith, and Ty Wallace.
International fans living outside of Canada can watch the Calgary Stampede on RidePass beginning at 3:15 p.m. ET.
The format for the Stampede, which has a combined $2 million worth of prize money up for grabs for the nine rodeo events, is different than a PBR event.
Riders battle it out for four days in highly-contested pool play with the goal of advancing to Showdown Sunday as one of the pool’s top-four money earners. If they don’t make it, they can then jockey with the remaining riders on Wild Card Saturday for the final two spots.
However, once Sunday arrives, the slates are wiped clean and the Calgary Stampede champion will be the rider who posts the single highest-marked ride in the championship round, featuring the top four riders following Sunday’s long round.
Melancon will be arriving in Calgary with plenty of momentum following a strong Cowboy Christmas run that has him sitting 11th in the PRCA bull riding standings.
The 24-year-old posted an 89.5-point ride at the Cody Stampede in Wyoming on Wednesday.
He also posted a fourth-place finish (88 points) at the Greeley Stampede.
Melancon is now in the mix at returning to the NFR for a second consecutive time after missing out on some bigger rodeos when he was on the sideline.
“Yeah I missed the two months and missed a few big rodeos,” Melancon said. “It is going good. I have been pretty much rodeoing and hanging out around the house with the new baby.”
Melancon said he was disappointed to see Team USA fail to repeat at the PBR Sydney Global Cup.
The Americans wound up finishing fourth overall.
The Liberty, Texas, bull rider would have loved to represent Team USA for a second time, but he knew he was unlikely to get the call this year from coach Justin McBride.
“I am little more bummed out that I didn’t get to go, but I knew I wasn’t going to go because I was at the bottom of the deal last time. I knew if I would have tried to make a run at the PBR and gotten anywhere close on tour, even then I probably wouldn’t be able to go. That is just part of it. I was glad to be a part of the first one.
“Heck, they had some awesome guys there too. So they done what they can do.”
Melancon added that a PBR run is certainly in his future, possibly as soon as 2019.
Now that he is healthy and riding well, he is hopeful to join recent bull riders such as Brennon Eldred, Shane Proctor and J.W. Harris that have been able to qualify for the NFR and the PBR World Finals.
“That is the plan anyways,” Melancon said. “I am always trying to play it by ear and go from there, but that is what I want to do. Hopefully go in there, sneak in some wins and get on tour. I won’t quit rodeoing. I like it too much.”
For now, Melancon is honing in on winning the prestigious bronze and the $100,000 that will be awarded to the victor at the Calgary Stampede.
“Heck yeah,” Melancon said via text message on Thursday. “It would be pretty badass.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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