PUEBLO, Colo. – When Michael Lane nods his head at the MGM Resorts Festival Grounds for Last Cowboy Standing on May 22, it will have been over two years since Lane last called for the gate on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Coincidentally, the 2013 Last Cowboy Standing was the last BFTS event that Lane has participated in after making his BFTS earlier that year at the Ty Murray Invitational.
Lane never would have thought it would take him more than two years to make his return. Despite being bucked off by Woody in 5.84 seconds in the first round of Last Cowboy Standing.
However, a string of left shoulder injuries began to add up later that season. Lane eventually underwent back-to-back shoulder surgeries and ended up being out for a year and half, missing all but two PBR events in 2014.
It is why Lane could not be more ready for the opportunity that awaits him in two weeks at this year’s Last Cowboy Standing, the feature event of Cowboy Spring Break.
“If you are a bull rider and you are at that level, and you are not excited about it and ready to go win, then I don’t know what will get you ready to win,” Lane said.
Last Cowboy Standing – the second PBR Major on the 2015 BFTS schedule and the last BFTS event of the first half – will be a huge opportunity for Lane and the other Top 50 bull riders in the world standings that will be nodding their heads in the PBR’s most grueling format.
Each rider will attempt one bull in Round 1 on May 22 and the riders that post a qualified ride will advance to the next round on May 23. There is a maximum of five rounds over the course of the two-day bull riding, and – most of all – there will be a significant amount of points available to go along with the $180,000 payday that awaits this year’s champion.
The 2015 Last Cowboy Standing champion will be awarded 600 points toward the world standings, just like Joao Ricardo Vieira earned for winning the 2015 Iron Cowboy, and there will also be higher points available for round finish: 150, 90, 75, 60, 45.
Lane understands that a strong performance in Las Vegas can set himself up at remaining on the BFTS once the second half of the season resumes on Aug. 7 in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“Vegas. That is going to be my first event of this year and I have been staying really focused the past few weeks knowing I have an event like that coming up,” Lane said. “I have been putting everything into it and I expect to go in there and get about 600 points and seed myself for the rest of the year.”
Lane – the No. 41 bull rider in the world – is the highest-ranked rider in the world standings yet to compete on the BFTS this year. The 24-year-old doesn’t need many points to further position himself in the standings heading into the summer break where points will be harder to earn on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour and in the Touring Pro Division.
One round win in Las Vegas can move Lane to 34th in the world standings.
Lane isn’t alone in hoping he can produce a breakthrough performance in Las Vegas. Other BFTS fringe riders, such as Cody Tyler White and Tyler Harr, are looking for a big payday in both the money and points departments.
White is 38th in the world standings and has competed in four BFTS events, including the Rumble in the Rockies two weeks ago. He has yet to record a qualified ride in seven attempts, but he is looking forward to riding for the first time in Las Vegas.
“I have never been to Vegas,” White said. “I am excited. I am really excited. I got bucked off some, but we will get it back together before Last Cowboy Standing.”
White admitted that there is certainly added pressure on young bull riders trying to crack the BFTS code and earn a spot on tour full time.
“The bright lights and stuff kind of makes you nervous at first,” the 24-year-old said. “Everybody can see it. Everybody on TV. Your family, your friends. You want to do good for them. You also have accomplished your dream by making the cut and you don’t want to let yourself down. That is why I put pressure on myself.”
White is only 20 points ahead of Lane in the world standings. He is also only 35 points ahead of No. 44-ranked Harr and Lachlan Richardson.
Harr has spent the majority of the season as a journey man rider – competing at various BFTS, BDVT and TPD events.
The 25-year-old is hoping to put a change to that in Las Vegas.
“I want to go to Last Cowboy Standing, but I want to be seeded on tour and I want to compete for the No. 1 spot. I can’t do it here on the Velocity Tour and I am ready for the next step. I am tired of messing around.”
Harr trails No. 35 Alexandre Cardozo by 72.5 points.
In general, there are only 345 points separating No. 30 Gage Gay from No. 50 Troy Wilkinson.
Lane has seen first-hand what a strong weekend on the BFTS can do to help a BlueDEF Velocity Tour rider get seeded on tour.
The North Tazewell, Virginia, bull rider has traveled with Gay, a close-friend of his for the past eight years, for the majority of the season and saw how Gay jumped back onto the BFTS following his 300-point performance in Billings, Montana.
Lane has gone a combined 15-for-35 (42.86 percent) in 19 BlueDEF Velocity Tour and Touring Pro Division events. He has also placed in the Top 3 at four consecutive BDVT events.
Lane recently went 2-for-3 at the Cactus Jack PBR Bull Riding BlueDEF Velcoity Tour event in Uvalde, Texas, for a third-place finish.
“I got a little bit of edge on me,” Lane said. “I am 24 and have been to a couple of Built Ford Tough events before. I have been to Last Cowboy Standing and I kind of got all the jitters out of me. All of that toying stuff is out of me.
“When I nod my head, I am here to win now.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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