By: Justin Felisko July 03, 2014@ 03:00:00 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. ― The last time Ryan Dirteater competed in Australia, he got to go scuba diving, surfing and even accidently ended up on the highway on a scooter in 2012.
This year, Dirteater is planning on his trip being much more business-related. His ultimate goal is to stand on top of the shark cage at the end of each of the three PBR Australian Cup Series events set for July 5 (Cairns Invitational), July 12 (Brendon Clark Invitational) and July 19 (Australian National Finals).
“The first time I went down there, I treated it like a vacation more than anything,” Dirteater said. “I didn’t do what I wanted to do. I won a little bit of money, but this time, it is all business. I expect more out of myself and hopefully, I can ride my bulls, do my job and let the rest of it take care of itself.”
Dirteater has spent the past few weeks working out and training in preparation to compete at his highest level once he arrives in Australia. The 25-year-old is excited about the possibility of gaining some momentum in the Land Down Under, before the Built Ford Tough Series resumes on Aug. 15 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
He and Skeeter Kingsolver left for Australia on Tuesday and will be spending the coming days doing a series of interviews with local media.
“Bull riding has given me a unique opportunity to travel the world,” said Dirteater, who has also competed in Brazil and Canada. “That is awesome. Not a lot of folks get to do what we do and the PBR has given that opportunity to travel the world and live our dream.”
Two years ago, Dirteater won a little money riding in Australia and placed in a couple of rounds, but he was unable to notch an event win.
“These are PBR events,” he said. “It is no joke. It can easily be a confidence booster. You go down, do well and come back and keep going. You can’t let up, because Tulsa is right around the corner and it will be here before we know it.”
Ironically, 2012 was arguably one of Dirteater’s best seasons on the BFTS. The man who has been ravaged by injuries – including a broken femur and dislocated left knee – during his six-year career ended up finishing 14th in the world standings after competing in a career-best 24 events, recording a career-high 29 rides along the way.
The Hulbert, Oklahoma, native has competed in all 18 BFTS events this year, building off his strong finish to last season. With the help of a 3-for-6 performance at the 2013 Built Ford Tough World Finals, Dirteater finished the year 14th in the world standings after returning from a torn left ACL, which kept him out for four months.
Ryan Dirteater puts up 90.75 points on Smackdown in the championship round of the 2013 Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas.
Dirteater, of course, would like his riding percentage (32 percent) to be higher, but his relatively good health has helped him produce three Top-5 finishes and four Top-10s. He heads to Australia 20th in the world standings.
“There were times (in my career) where I would ride up to my potential and there were times where I would lose focus,” he said. “There are ups and downs, but I wouldn’t change that. The key is to stay focused all season long and that is one thing in years past that I have struggled with.”
That is why the majority of his trip to Australia will be business-related, meaning Dirteater will continue to work out and train as best he can to remain in prime shape. He also expects to do some team roping with friends in Australia, as well as taking a little time to enjoy the region.
Brendon Clark, who will be serving as an announcer in Australia, while hosting his namesake event, said that the Australian events provide riders a chance to get on some different bulls and gain some confidence and momentum during the summer months. It also can provide a mental cleanse from the rigors of the summer bull-riding trail in the United States.
“I think it will be good for him,” Clark said. “I hope he stays healthy for the rest of this year, so we can actually see how much talent he’s really got.”
Before retiring last season, Clark had competed on tour with Dirteater ever since the then 18-year-old made his BFTS debut in 2008. Clark witnessed the struggles Dirteater dealt with when struck by the injury bug. He also saw the glimpses of a rider that, when everything comes together, can be a potential Top-10 or Top-5 rider.
Clark called Dirteater a “stylish rider” and one of the guys he always enjoyed seeing climb aboard a bull.
“I have always loved the way he rides,” Clark said. “He has been through more than most bull riders probably ever go through in their career due to injuries and be able to come back. He is one of the very few bull riders at the top level that I have ever seen that can be injured and have an injury that would take people out for their careers and be able to still come back and still ride at the top of his game.”
Dirteater admits that this season, he has been more dedicated to his gym routine than in years past, which is part of growing into being a professional.
“With these bull ridings we go to, all of this stuff that goes on around, it’s easy to not stay focused,” Dirteater said. “It is just maturing. Everybody goes through it. I only got a little time left to do this and I still have that one goal I am shooting for.”
It’s been three years since Dirteater last won a BFTS event. In 2011, he earned his second career victory by going 4-for-4 in Wichita, Kansas, and riding Crosswired for 91.5 points.
He has also yet to win a BFTS event in his home state – his only other win came in Dallas in 2009 –and he will get two cracks at it during the second half this year.
“Tulsa and Thackerville, I am going to be coming for them,” Dirteater said. “Anything is possible. That is what I am shooting for. I won second quite a few times (at other events), but that event win is coming.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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