Kris Molle, excelling in a fast-paced sport of stomping horses and flying dirt and dashing finishes, is proving to be a picture of patience.
His career in the Canadian Professional Chuckwagon Association tells you that.
In 2015, he’s in the running for the overall championship, finishes second to Ray Mitsuing.
In 2016, he’s in the running for the overall championship, finishes second to Mitsuing.
In 2017, he’s in the running for the overall championship, finishes second to Wayne Knight.
Because in a game that expects you to rush, he doesn’t. For Molle, it’s steady as she goes.
And look now – the Chauvin, Alta., driver tops the CPCA rankings.
“Yeah, it’s a double-bladed sword,” Molle says of his penchant for silver-medal finishes. “What do I have to do better to be that No. 1 guy? That’s what I’m striving for. Like everyone in this sport, they want to be that No. 1 guy. You need continuous improvement every year.
“We have a long season yet. You don’t want to get ahead of yourself. Take one day at a time, one race at a time, and see how the cards play out in the end.”
Exactly. In other words, no mad panic.
Which is an approach that he’s applying to the 2018 GMC Rangeland Derby at the Calgary Stampede.
Making his fifth straight appearance here, Molle has sussed out the key to success. Guess what it is.
“Patience on the track,” the 40-year-old says. “Pick your spot. Don’t get in a hurry because that’s when you start making mistakes. You want to be fast, but you’ve got to slow your mind down. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Do things proper. Just treat it like another race or like you’re at home running in the field.”
He pauses. Grins.
“Easier said than done.”
But whatever Molle is doing is paying off. His first four visits to the Stampede resulted in finishes of 27th, 28th, 29th, 28th in the 36-man field.
“You come here and you want to do very well,” he says. “You want to be competitive and drive clean. Absolutely, I’d love to win it. I’d love to be on the stage at the end of the 10 days and be crowned the champion.
“We’ll see how that goes. A dream come true.”
If that seems like a stretch, you haven’t been watching Molle run this week in Calgary.
Through two nights, he topped the GMC Rangeland Derby aggregate standings. (“Pretty cool,” he noted the morning after.)
Through five nights, only defending champion Kurt Bensmiller was ahead of him.
On the sixth day, however, he crumpled a barrel and dropped to 10th. Day 7 saw him slip to 12th.
But no matter.
He’s showing the chuckwagon world that he’s for real. He says it’s a testament to barn depth and barn management, which he’s learned from the sport’s masters.
“You have to come in with two, three solid teams, I’ve noticed over the years,” says Molle. “That’s what I’ve been building towards. Then you can pick and choose, rest horses when you need to.”
His herd is solid. So, too, are his nerves – at least now.
Unlike his 2014 debut here.
“The first time coming around the track, the fourth corner, and looking into the grandstand, it was, like, ‘Wow, I finally made it. Wow, I can’t believe there’s so many people here,'” says Molle, chuckling. “Everything was so overwhelming. All the people. You didn’t know what to expect, what to do.
“But once you get out there, racing’s racing. You have to keep that in mind and keep everything in check and do your thing.”
Like his father Glen, Molle had been a superb pony-chuckwagon operator, back when the family was based in Watson, Sask. For 15 years, he excelled.
“Then the wife and I decided to take the jump into the professional chuckwagon circuit seven years ago. It’s a huge commitment compared to the ponies,” he says. “But we had friends and buddies who did it. They enjoyed it and you see what they were doing, how well they did, so we said, ‘You know what? Let’s give it a try.'”
And, like it is for so many of the other drivers, it’s a family affair.
His son Kaeden, 14, is interested in outriding one day for the old man. (“I’d encourage it. Something to keep the family involved.”) And daughter Blake, 12, is a keen barrel-racer.
Meaning the day may come when she’s competing at the Stampede grounds in the afternoons and Molle is busy on the track at nights.
“Hopefully,” says Dad, with a grin.
So far, though, it’s one family member at a time.
Before actually racing in Calgary, Molle had never been to the Stampede. Not as a spectator. Not as an outrider. Not as a barn hand. Nothing.
But he always harboured expectations.
“I watched on TV and always said to myself, ‘When I go, I want to be there to compete,'” says Molle. “It’s been a tremendous experience. I’ve loved every minute of it.”