KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Four years ago, Shane Proctor flew into San Antonio and competed at a rodeo event just hours before the 2011 Iron Cowboy in Arlington.
Once he was bucked off by Excuse This in San Antonio, Proctor headed right back to San Antonio International Airport and hopped on the short 1-hour flight to Dallas, where he hustled his way to Cowboys Stadium – which has since been renamed AT&T Stadium. Proctor would then ride I’m Back at Iron Cowboy for 84.75 points, but he was eliminated by L.J. Jenkins’ 85-point ride on Mr. Slim.
“I knew it was going to be a long day,” Proctor said this weekend in Kansas City. “That is what we do. We are cowboys.”
Iron Cowboy has historically been one of the PBR’s most grueling bull ridings, and Proctor was not one bit concerned about how his body was going to feel on that February night.
It is only one small example of why when asked about this year’s new Iron Cowboy format, Proctor simply responded with, “It is another bull riding.”
The 2015 Choctaw Casino Resort Iron Cowboy, powered by Kawasaki Strong, is no longer a bracket-style format like years past. Instead, it will be a one-day version of Last Cowboy Standing. There will be 40 riders competing in Round 1 on Saturday, and depending how many riders advance through each round via an 8-second qualified ride, there is a chance that some riders may get on a maximum of five bulls.
“It’s not any different,” Proctor said. “You go to a BlueDEF Velocity Tour event and you enter twice, you are going to get on four if you get to the short round. Our job is to stay on bulls.”
It may not matter to Proctor about how many bulls he will have to potentially get on, but the stakes are going to be higher this coming weekend in the first PBR Major of the season. There is $180,000 waiting for the event winner, as well as 600 points toward the world standings.
“It is $180,000 and one of the biggest stadiums in Texas,” Guilherme Marchi said. “It is a favorite state for the riders and all of the good bulls are going to be there. Thousands of fans will be cheering for us.”
Marchi won Last Cowboy Standing last year by going 2-for-4 in Las Vegas. He is happy with the new format for Iron Cowboy, but agreed that it will be a daunting task to potentially get aboard five bulls in one day.
“Vegas was different for us because we get on the first bull the first night and then the second the next day,” Marchi said. “It is going to be a little hard. I don’t think nobody will cover five bulls over there. The best bulls are going to be there. There are going to be three or four rounds. It is going to be fun.”
It is not uncommon for riders to get on five or six bulls in the practice pen in one day. The major difference is the quality of bulls they will face at Iron Cowboy. PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert strategically assembles one of the toughest bull pens on the BFTS for Iron Cowboy.
Bonner Bolton won the BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Yakima, Washington, two weeks ago to clinch a bid in the draw for Iron Cowboy, which will be officially announced later this week, and has climbed aboard six bulls in the practice pen before.
“That is really stretching yourself as a physical test as a human, when you try to wrap your legs around that much power all at once,” Bolton said. “But the bulls of this caliber and level are a whole other ballgame.”
The 27-year-old grew up in Midland and Odessa, Texas, and said Iron Cowboy was an event he has always wanted to ride in.
“That is an event I have always wanted to go to,” he said. “That has been the home state football team that I have cheered on since I was a little kid, so it is cool to be competing as an athlete there. That is a dream come true in itself.”
2010 Iron Cowboy champion Valdiron de Oliveira likes adopting the Last Cowboy Standing format for Iron Cowboy because it evens the playing field for the riders some. Oliveira pointed out that in the old format there was a distinct advantage for the second rider in a matchup because he could see how long the previous rider lasted.
When Oliveira won Iron Cowboy, he rode his first two bulls, Little Mr. T (88.25 points) and Bones (89.5), before bucking off Big Tex in 6.9 seconds and Code Blue for 4.5 seconds.
“I like it much better now because you used to not need to stay on your bull to pass,” Oliveira said. “It was easier for the second rider to know how many seconds he needed to stay on his bull. Then somebody else would have to try really hard to stay on their bull (if their opponent rode for 8 seconds).”
Austin Meier, the 2013 Iron Cowboy champion, shared Oliveira’s sentiments.
“I think it is good. You ain’t going to luck into anything,” he said. “We have seen in the past some guys made some really good rides and not advance. The way it is now, you have to earn your way through and all the way. You are not going to luck into it. If you win it, it is because you did your job that day.”
In 2013, Meier rode his first two bulls, Midnight Mood (87.75 points) andPalm Springs (87.5) before bucking off Southpaw in 3.46 seconds and Bushwacker in 2.67 seconds.
Last year’s Iron Cowboy champion Joao Ricardo Vieira actually bucked off all five of the bulls he attempted.
Three-time World Champion and two-time Last Cowboy Standing (2012/2013) champ Silvano Alves is on board with the new format.
“I think all of the bull riders should need to ride their bulls and get a score,” Alves said. “I think you should need to stay on 8 seconds.”
Alves, who has long been known for his mental toughness in the arena, added that one of the biggest keys in overcoming the physical toll of getting on so many the bulls in one day is to have the mental willpower to remain focused in a high-energy setting.
Alves has gone 8-for-13 (61.54 percent) in his career at the Last Cowboy Standing event.
“It is going to be harder because there will be one, two, three and maybe four or five bulls,” he said. “You have to keep going. You just need to stay on the bull and have lots of concentration to ride good because in one day you will be more tired. There is not a lot of time to rest for long.”
The excitement and energy of AT&T Stadium can also play into the hands of the riders if handled correctly believes Proctor and Marchi.
“We will get energy from the fans and we will be ready,” Marchi said. “We don’t care how many bulls we have to get on. We will be ready.”
Proctor concluded, “The adrenaline takes over. When you are riding in Dallas Cowboys Stadium, the whole atmosphere just pumps you up and keeps you going. There is no way you need any additives to your fuel.
“You are ready to go.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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