The Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR) is the most prestigious rodeo on the Canadian Rodeo Circuit.
To even make it to the week long aggregate format rodeo at Rexall Place, cowboys need to be among the top 12 highest earners in the country in their respective event.
With more than $200,000 per event on the line throughout the week and the championship buckle going to the cowboy (or cowgirl) with the highest season earnings, the competition is fierce.
Which is why it’s so impressive that Lacombe native Tyrel Flewelling claimed his third Canadian Championship as a heeler in Edmonton last week.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s always nice to win, it just validates having a great season,” said the 29-year-old team roper, who also won the title in 2011 and 2013.
The CFR is an aggregate-style rodeo, meaning the cowboy with the highest total earnings at the end of the week gets the title.
Team roping, however, works a little bit differently than most of the other events because while the total prize money for winning or placing in a go-round is the same as the other events, the total gets split between the header and the heeler of the team. The two cowboys’ earnings are then tracked separately.
Flewelling and his roping partner Roland McFadden came into the finals in third place on the overall standings, just $2,000 shy of season leaders Brett Buss and Klay Whyte. And with each round paying out a combined $12,000 to the winners (not to mention the slough of money available for placing in a go-round) a $2,000 lead can disappear pretty fast.
“It’s been good. Rol and I, that’s the most money we have ever won in the regular season. We had $20,000 we’d won and we came in a really good position to have a good finals.
“This year I was way more consistent. I didn’t really miss too many steers and then a week up in Edmonton I was able to catch ‘em all up there too so I just felt like my consistency is as good as it’s ever been,” Flewelling said.
And the two of them didn’t disappoint at Rexall. They posted qualified times on five out of six of the steers that they drew, including a time of 5.0 to win the second go-round.
While they only won the one round, Flewelling and McFadden were quick enough to consistently place in the top five, earning money along the way. Their consistency, combined with the fact that they only took one 10 second penalty all week, put them right into the race for the best average time in the team roping.
At the CFR, the average race plays out like an extra round. So in team roping, the five teams with the lowest average time over the six performances get an extra cheque on top of their earnings from the week.
Going into Sunday’s performance the cowboys had earned a total of $13, 500 apiece to put them firmly in the lead and just needed to post a clean run to lock down second place in the average race and, with it, the Canadian title.
“We knew if we had a clean run we would win second in the average, that would seal it, so we just said to each other ‘hey let’s just go do what we did all year,’” McFadden, a Vulcan, Alberta boy, said.
And they stepped up to the occasion, posting a time of 4.8, their best of the week, to clinch the buckles.
“You never really know how the week’s going to go up there,” Flewelling said.
“You just try and go up there and make your consistent run and try and place along the way and hopefully have a chance at the average at the end of the week.”
This is the second time the pair, with McFadden at the head of the steer and Flewelling roping the heels, have competed together at CFR, but it’s the first time they’ve won it together. In fact, this was McFadden’s first ever Canadian title, something that Flewelling said was a pretty cool thing to be a part of.
“It’s pretty awesome to be part of (Roland’s) first win. It’s great. I’m just proud of him because he’s roped good enough here to do it before and things just didn’t go his way,” Flewelling said.
The two cowboys started roping together last season and have had to work through a number of challenges on their way to the finals, not the least of which is the distance between their homes.
“It makes it kind of tricky. In the spring time the rodeos are all kind of down that way so I try to go down there and as the summer keeps progressing he comes up here and ropes,” Flewelling said about how they work around the roughly three hour drive from Vulcan to Lacombe.
But at the end of the day, he said, the travel time is worth it because he’s able to compete with someone he gets along well with.
“We get along really good, so it’s nice to win with your friend.”