By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – A jolt of excitement and anticipation went running through Taylor Toves’ veins two years ago as the boxes began to get passed around the room in Las Vegas.
The rookie class of 2017 was receiving their World Finals qualification rings, and Toves began to think he was going to get one.
But Toves was not a member of that year’s rookie class, and he was not qualified for the World Finals via the Top 35.
Therefore, his excitement dissipated into disappointment.
“I started getting the itch,” Toves recalled. “I was thinking, ‘Aw, man. Hell yeah. I am going to get one.’ But seeing as I was an alternate or whatever, I didn’t get one and I was like, ‘Son of a gun.’
Toves – one of five Wild Card winners at the 2017 Velocity Tour Finals – still got to ride inside T-Mobile Arena at the 2017 PBR World Finals, where he went 1-for-5.
At the end of the day, it did not matter to him how he achieved his childhood dream because he was still there alongside 39 of the other best bull riders in the world.
Toves, though, has not forgotten about that ring, and that is an additional driving force as he tries to scratch and claw his way to the 2019 PBR World Finals on Nov. 6-10 in Las Vegas.
“To go this year and get one, it is what you always wanted,” Toves said.
Toves is the No. 35-ranked rider in the world standings, and he leads No. 39 Jared Parsonage by 126.66 points for the final World Finals spot ahead of this Saturday night’s Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour regular-season finale in Rapid City, South Dakota.
No. 38 is the cutoff heading into Rapid City with No. 19 Aaron Kleier (ineligible via choice to compete in Australia), No. 24 Silvano Alves (ruptured kidney) and No. 33 Cannon Cravens (broken leg) unable to ride in Las Vegas.
BUBBLE STANDINGS HEADING INTO RAPID CITY
No. 35 Toves (+126.66 points)
No. 36 Dylan Smith (+27.5 points)
No. 37 Scottie Knapp (+25 points)
No. 38 Colten Jesse (+11.66 points)*
No. 39 Jared Parsonage (-11.66)*
No. 40 Cliff Richardson (-16.66 points)*
No. 41 Ramon de Lima (-43.33 points)
No. 42 Junio Quaresima (-101.66 points)
*Jesse remains out because of reconstructive shoulder surgery, while Parsonage (PBR Canada) and Richardson (PBR Australia) are riding in their home countries Monster Energy Tour events this weekend.
Toves has drawn Fat Boy (9-2, all levels) for Round 1 Saturday night at Rushmore Plaza.
Fans can watch the Velocity Tour regular-season finale on RidePass beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
World leader Jose Vitor Leme, No. 3 Chase Outlaw, No. 4 Joao Ricardo Vieira, No. 6 Cody Teel, No. 8 Marco Eguchi, No. 10 Luciano de Castro, No. 16 Alisson de Souza, No. 17 Matt Triplett, No. 21 Stetson Lawrence, No. 23 Brennon Eldred, No. 25 Alan de Souza and No. 31 Rubens Barbosa are also tentatively slated to compete.
The pressure for the riders on the cutline has only intensified in recent weeks.
Every ride, and every buckoff, comes with greater celebration or further display of frustration.
Dylan Smith has gone five straight events at all levels without earning any points toward the world standings, and he has bucked off 10 consecutive bulls.
Those emotions began to boil over some in Nampa, Idaho, last weekend after he bucked off his re-ride Spotted Snake in 2.21 seconds in Round 2.
Smith let out a yell and threw his rope in disgust once he turned the corner toward the locker room, eventually finding a corner nook in the back hallway to cool off.
“It can be stressful, but you have to compartmentalize it,” Smith said before Round 2.
The 19-year-old is trying to qualify for his first PBR World Finals, and 2019 has been a learning curve for him.
Smith is only 6-for-41 (14.63%) on the Unleash The Beast, but he is sitting No. 8 in the Velocity Tour standings thanks to his Feb. 2 victory in Knoxville, Tennessee, and third-place finish in Hampton, Virginia.
“I am hoping on making it,” Smith said of the World Finals. “There is nothing really to lose. I need to do what I have been doing all year and give it all I got. Not hold anything back, which is what I should have been doing all year. I really need to do that now if I want to make my first World Finals, which is what I have always wanted to do.”
Toves finished the Unleash The Beast regular season 11-for-47 (23.4%), but he is 9-for-19 (47.37%) overall on the Velocity Tour and ranked 10th in the tour standings ahead of Rapid City.
The Velocity Tour Finals on Nov. 2-3 at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa will be the last chance for riders to qualify for World Finals.
The Top-2 finishers in the Velocity Tour standings that are outside of the Top 35 qualifiers will earn wild card bids to the World Finals. So too will the Top-2 finishers in the event average that have yet to qualify for the World Finals. In the event that the Top-5 finishers in the Velocity Tour Finals event have already qualified for the World Finals, the PBR will take two more Velocity riders from the tour’s respective standings.
Toves used the Velocity Tour Finals in 2017 to qualify for the World Finals when he went 4-for-4 for a second-place finish behind reigning PRCA champion Sage Kimzey.
The Wild Cards are great, but a rider should not fall back on them, Toves said.
“That is cool, but I am trying to not look at it like that,” he said. “I am trying to secure my spot the right way. But for anybody, the way I made it into it that year was awesome. To get a shot, and go there and experience it that way. When you do go your first time, you have been there once and know how to handle it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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