By: Justin Felisko
April 01, 2016
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Mike Lee raised his eyebrows and responded, “Oh, really?” during the PBR Experience, exclusively at Walmart, Friday when he was told he had drawn Jared Allen’s Air Time for this Saturday’s 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Lee has spent some time studying video of one of this year’s leading contenders for the World Champion Bull title and believes he knows what to expect on the Denny Sanford Premier Center dirt.
“Well, he is probably one of the rankest bulls in the world,” Lee said. “I would like to keep my feet down. He has a lot of drop. He gets pretty steep. I have actually done a lot of studying on him. The bull kicks at his belly. Which actually makes him steeper when he kicks. That is most of the problem with guys falling off him.”
Air Time is slated to face the 2004 World Champion following Round 2 on Saturday night after Tanner Byrne informed the PBR competition department Wednesday he would be unable to compete in Sioux Falls because of a groin and shoulder injury.
So, instead of a showdown between Jared Allen Pro Bull Team teammates, Air Time will take on a PBR World Champion for the fifth time.
“Like Jared (Allen) said, at least Mike isn’t going to be scared of him,” Jared Allen Pro Bull Team stock contractor Matt Scharping said. “Mike can get on anything and we have never had Mike on him. I look forward to it. Every time Air Time is out, it is different for a new rider who has never seen him because there isn’t many bulls that are like him in the regard to how he gets his motor running.”
Air Time has bragging rights against 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, who he bucked off in 1.93 seconds at Iron Cowboy, as well as current world leader J.B. Mauney (4.57 seconds in Charlotte last season) and Justin McBride (1.74 seconds at the 2014 THE AMERICAN).
However, his most impressive out so far was in Phoenix when he manhandled Joao Ricardo Vieira in 2.24 seconds for a 47-point bull score.
This weekend will be the first meeting between Air Time and Lee.
The matchup can be seen on CBS network television Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
“He is a big, strong bull,” Lee said. “If you get past his first few, I think it will go good.”
Getting past the first few jumps against Air Time has been no easy task for the majority of Built Ford Tough Series riders that have attempted him.
Air Time has looked unstoppable this season, bucking off all three of his opponents in less than 3 seconds. He has also bucked off 18 consecutive riders dating back to March 2014 when Renato Nunes (92.5 points) became the only rider thus far to last the full 8 seconds aboard the bovine athlete.
Riders last an average of 3.09 seconds on Air Time, but he has also dispatched six riders before the 2-second mark and nine before the 3-second mark.
“Air Time is just dirty rank from the start,” Scharping said. “It is like a bomb going off. You have no idea what he is going to do. All you know is he is going to buck his ass off. How much a rider wants to get out on him and really wants to try the bull – that is the big thing. If they are looking for a safe spot to get off, it ain’t going to be good. If they are like I am going to make history, then it could be outstanding for both.”
Scharping says he doesn’t mind if Air Time is ridden for a full 8 seconds, 5 seconds or 2 seconds. He will be happy as long as Air Time has his best day and receives a strong score.
Sometimes it can be hard for judges to see everything a bull can offer when he dominates riders so quickly, but it appears that Air Time is continuing to find ways to make a strong impression in a few seconds.
“He is starting to gain some reputation to some degree I suppose,” Scharping said. “He bucks hard every time. I have heard people say, well if he has a bad day. Honestly, he doesn’t really have a day unless he falls. He bucks hard every time.”
One thing that can easily be missed this year about Air Time is the fact that Scharping and company have added 100 pounds to the white spotted bull.
Scharping has been happy with the added weight, which now puts Air Time somewhere between 1,750 and 1,800 pounds. Outside of the weight difference from a year ago, Air Time also will be showing up in Sioux Falls with some extra attitude.
Scharping, who lives three hours from Sioux Falls, brought Air Time and Magic Train back home to Arlington, Minnesota, two weeks ago after keeping the bulls down at Scott Accomazzo’s ranch in Stephenville, Texas, for the winter.
However, the weather hasn’t been perfect in the upper Midwest with snow and rain drenching the region and Air Time has been having some fun in the Minnesota mud since coming home.
A rejuvenated and fired up Air Time may not be so helpful for Lee.
“He has some serious attitude,” Scharping said. “His exercise pen has a big dirt pile in it and with the amount of rain and stuff we had it has been more of a mud pile. He loves to exercise. He is filthy, but that is him.
“He is ready to go.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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