By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – The New Year is officially upon us, and with that comes every rider’s desire to begin the 2021 season on the right foot.
2020 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour champion Mason Taylor, though, knows a strong beginning means having more than just one good weekend at the start of the year.
It was only a year ago that Taylor looked poised for a breakout sophomore season after one event.
Taylor won the season-opening 15/15 Bucking Battle in New York City with a 90-point ride on Marquis Metal Works Bill The Butcher. Taylor then rode Bill The Butcher again less than 24 hours later for another 90 points and a fourth-place finish.
He rode four of his first five bulls to begin the 2020 season.
He then only covered five of his next 22.
“It’s like I always start the year off on freaking fire, but now I need to keep it rolling and not get complacent like I did last year,” Taylor told PBR.com on Monday following his Touring Pro Division victory this weekend at the Cowtown Classic. “I started off on fire last year and was like, ‘Damn, this is going to be easy,’ and it is not easy. It is still the rankest bulls every weekend.
“Everybody comes back firing on all cylinders because they want a spot in the Top 35. Once you get into that Top 35, it can be easy to get into coast mode. That was a sophomore mistake by me last year, and I won’t let it happen again this year.”
Taylor started his 2021 season with a bang over the holiday weekend, and he is not wasting any time gaining momentum ahead of the Unleash The Beast: American Roots Edition season-opener in Ocala, Florida, on Jan. 16-17.
The 21-year-old went 2-for-2 to win the Cowtown Classic Touring Pro Division event on Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas. He began his 2021 season by riding Night Stalker for 88 points in Round 1 before taking over the event lead with an 89-point effort on Cido 545 in the championship round.
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Taylor earned 15 world points with the victory and is ranked seventh in the very early world standings.
“I am not trying to mess around this year,” Taylor said. “I really want to be in the talk for a world title, and this will be my third year on tour. It is time for me to quit being a Top 15 bull rider and being a Top 5 bull rider.”
Ironically, Taylor was originally not even supposed to be riding bulls this month.
He had planned to undergo hip surgery and miss the first three months of the season before his doctor had to cancel the planned procedure in December. Therefore, Taylor decided not to reschedule the surgery to repair a torn labrum and has opted for physical therapy in hopes of putting off surgery for the time being.
Of course, it is only one weekend, but Taylor likes how his body is feeling heading into the Unleash The Beast kickoff in Ocala in less than two weeks.
“They canceled my surgery in December, so I went on ahead and started doing rehab for it and all these hip flexor workouts,” Taylor explained. “Stretching it out and building everything up around it, so I am not overcompensating for it.
“What better way to make sure those workouts are working than getting a bucking son of a gun like that turning into my hand? Throughout the ride, it didn’t hurt, and when I got off, it didn’t hurt.”
Taylor lost 20 pounds following the 2019 season, and he is hopeful the weight loss will help him crack the Top 10 of the PBR world standings in 2021 following back-to-back Top-15 finishes and a strong finish to 2020.
The two-time PBR World Finals qualifier won the 2020 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals and the ensuing Velocity Tour championship by going 2-for-3 with two 90.5-point rides last November.
Taylor concluded 2020 ranked 15th in the world standings, going 1-for-4 at the PBR World Finals.
He went 19-for-59 (32.2%) on the Unleash The Beast after battling a nagging injury to his riding hand/wrist, as well as his hip injuries. However, he began to show promise with a second-place finish at the UTB regular-season finale in Nampa, Idaho, and his victory at the Velocity Tour Finals.
Taylor had planned on cracking the Top 10 last season after finishing 2019 ranked 14th.
“It pisses me off,” Taylor said. “I know I ride better than that, and I should be in a world title conversation. When I ride (inconsistent) like that, it pisses me off. It’s not like it’s hard to find motivation, but when you look around you and you are the 13th, 14th, 15th guy, and you are still in the Top 15 but you are middle of the pack, I don’t like being in that spot. I want to be in the Top 5 every single season. That is what I want to go for. That is when it goes into playing with my mind and my head. That is when little things start compounding on me. If I would stay out of my own way, I would never fall off. It is me staying out of my own way.
“Going into this next year, winning the Velocity Finals was a good stepping stone, but I don’t want to be known as the guy that won the Velocity Tour and rides really good on the Velocity Tour. I am going to just use that as a stepping stone and hopefully jump even more and be in the Top 5 this year.”
KASEL DOING OK FOLLOWING CONCUSSION
Taylor was one of two riders to go a perfect 2-for-2 at the Cowtown Coliseum during the two-day, holiday weekend bull riding.
2019 PBR Rookie of the Year Dalton Kasel finished runner-up to Taylor after riding Lone Survivor for 86 points and Home Wrecker for 89.5 points. Kasel’s ride on Home Wrecker was the best of the championship round but did not come without consequence. The 21-year-old sustained a concussion during his rough get-off and had to be transported to a local hospital.
Kasel told PBR.com on Monday that he was feeling better.
“The Lord was definitely looking over me,” he said.
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Kasel will most likely begin the 2021 season on the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour after concluding 2020 40th in the world standings. Unless he earns an alternate spot for Ocala, he will be competing at the Cedar Park Chute Out on Jan. 15-16 when the Velocity Tour begins its 2021 campaign.
Rounding out the Top 5 in Fort Worth this weekend was J.T. Moore (1-for-2, 89 points on Cabo Wabo), Dakota Louis (1-for-2, 89 points on Whip) and Lucas Fideles Souza (1-for-2, 86 points on Orca).
This weekend the American Bucking Bull Inc. rang in the new year with its annual event in Fort Worth, Texas, at the Cowtown Coliseum. In addition to the usual Classic and Maturity competitions, the Top 20 Futurity bulls competed for a purse of $25,000 as well, bucking more than 120 bulls on the weekend.
2018 Cowgirl Futurity Champion 710 Yadi of Dennis & Jan Owens and Chad Berger won the Classic event with a 90.8-point performance to win over $13,000. 714 Body Count (Bob & Jeri Adams/BS Cattle Co.) and 03 Back Jack (Flying M/Hilton/Winston) tied for second with 90 points and more than $7,000 apiece.
2018 ABBI Futurity World Champion and 2019 ABBI Reserve Classic World Champion 612 Ridin’ Solo (Cord McCoy/Bill McCarty) posted 90.4 points in his first out of the season to capture the Cowtown Maturity Champion title for just under $6,000. Former PBR bull rider L.J. Jenkins, along with partner Witcofski Bucking Bulls, had their bull 506 Nomad Max tie with 262 Yellow Feather (Oilfield Outlaw Bucking Bulls) with 89.2 points to win $3,360 each.
The Top 20 Fort Worth Futurity was won by G6 El Cid (Rockin R/Shannon & Jim Barr) with 91.75 points, who captured his fifth consecutive win, including qualifying events en route to this weekend’s event. He collected almost $10,000 with the victory. 9046 Skrewball (Bucking Fun Group/Red Laces) placed second with 90.2 points, while current PBR bull rider Brennon Eldred’s calf 91 Washita Red landed a third-place finish with 89 points to round out the Top 3.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Christopher Thompson/Bull Stock Media
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