Calgary Herald

Primer on all the action


If you were watching, you know the ride.

Chad Besplug — final contestant of the 2012 Calgary Stampede’s bull-riding showdown — clambers aboard Kish This. The Claresholm, Alta., cowboy, for his eight seconds’ worth of glue, earns 87 points. Which seals the victory. On a mucky Sunday afternoon. In the prestigiou­s rodeo’s 100th anniversar­y.

Besplug, of course, also tucks $100,000 into his muddy dungarees.

“That’s definitely the one moment,” he says of the championsh­ip ride.

But? What always pops into his mind is another snapshot — from earlier that same day.

In the round of 10, he’s drawn 400 VJV Slash (or simply Slash to the downtrodde­n, heartbroke­n, crestfalle­n). Like many, Besplug has history with the ornery critter.

“He’d bucked me off three times in a row, really quick,” he says. “So ... I was excited, but, at the same time, I was like, ‘(This is a bull) that’s beat me every time.’ ”

On this occasion, Besplug locks on, picking up 86.5 points and advancing to the championsh­ip’s final four.

“So that was my favourite ride of the day,” he says. “Most people don’t remember that one, though. At that time, I was riding as good as I ever have. I was just better at that point, for sure.”

Not that he’s a stranger to being better. His resume is meaty enough to include Canadian Profession­al Rodeo Associatio­n’s year-end titles in 2011 and 2013.

Now he returns for his eighth kick at the Stampede jackpot.

Unlike some other cowboys, this stop is his sole focus — all week. No gallivanti­ng. No pocket-lining.

“I’ll just go to the Stampede, that’s all I do,” says Besplug, who, last year as defending champ, covered only a single bull. “There are some other little rodeos that are possible to go to, but I like to just stay healthy and enjoy it here. I really don’t have much desire to go and ride for a little bit of money for one day ... when it would be nice to not risk getting injured when you have a chance to ride for $100,000 on Sunday.

“Once the Stampede starts, everything else goes on hold for a week.”

However, Besplug, who now resides in Calgary, isn’t concerned about the glare of the spotlight, which is always bright, especially for locals.

“As far as a hometown thing, I don’t really feel pressure,” says the 28-year-old. “I feel I’ve proved myself enough where I don’t really have to anymore. But there still is pressure because you’re riding for so much money. It’s one of the few places we go where we can win a substantia­l amount. It is a little extra pressure, but most guys at this level will rise to the occasion. Most guys ride better at big places like this.”

Earlier this year, in March, he had certainly been feeling the heat. A different kind of heat.

He had done more than lend his name to the inaugural Chad Besplug Invitation­al bull-riding event at the Claresholm Agriplex. He put in countless hours of organizing.

All of which was an eye-opener for someone used to the routine of a competitor — show up, get on, head out.

“Definitely a change for me — I’ve never done anything like that,” says Besplug. “It was a lot of work. There’s a lot more moving pieces than you think. I think people get the impression that you just get the bulls there, get the riders, maybe have some music. But there’s a thousand different little things you need to do to make it run smooth.

“Pretty nerve-racking until the event was over. Definitely a little tough to balance being focused on riding and watching the event. I had to let everyone else take control once the thing started. But I was still sitting there watching every little thing. It was fun and a great experience.”

And, bull-riding boosters, have no fear — the event is not a one-off.

“I plan to do it forever,” says Besplug. “It went as good — or better — than I could have expected.”

Good fortune did go south only days later when Besplug wrenched his right shoulder at an event in Houston. The separation kept him out of action for three weeks.

Now, perched comfortabl­y near the top of the CPRA’s point list, he arrives at his favourite rodeo — and one of the sport’s proving grounds.

“Anybody can draw good and get lucky here and there,” says Besplug. “It’s what makes Calgary better than other rodeos ... you have to get on six bulls to win the thing — you have to stay on six. That takes the luck of the draw out if it. Whoever’s the best that week will win it.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I’ve always had the feeling, when I go anywhere, that I’m a guy that can win everything.”

 ?? Gavin Young/ Calgary Herald ?? Chad Besplug hopes to win the bull riding championsh­ip — and $100,000 — at the Calgary Stampede.
Gavin Young/ Calgary Herald Chad Besplug hopes to win the bull riding championsh­ip — and $100,000 — at the Calgary Stampede.

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