This year’s Calgary Stampede may feature the toughest bull riding draw in its 99-year history.
For the sixth year in a row, the Stampede has invited some of the top PBR riders from the Built Ford Tough Series to compete for the $100,000 payout.
The first pool of 10 riders will start Friday afternoon, featuring Austin Meier, Shane Proctor and Ryan McConnel, as well as Canadians Scott Schiffner, Devon Mezei, Chad Besplug and Jesse Torkelson. All seven, along with Corey Navarre, have competed on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Next week, the second pool will begin competing Tuesday afternoon.
A virtual who’s who from the Built Ford Tough Series, Pool B features Robson Palermo, Guilherme Marchi, Mike Lee, J. B. Mauney, Dustin Elliott, reigning Stampede winner Douglas Duncan and Canadian rider Aaron Roy, along with his fellow countrymen Ty Pozzobon, Tyler Thomson and Tyler Smith.
Not that the first pool will be easy, but the second group is arguably the strongest ever assembled in Stampede history.
“Honestly, the cream rises to the top,” said Jason Davidson, who will serve as the arena director. “Hats off to the Calgary Stampede for trying to make their event the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.’ Stepping outside the box and improving their bull riding with the PBR, PRCA and the CPRA – that’s bringing the best of the best from three different associations and it truly is exciting.”
The event has been won by a PBR invitee in each of the past five years.
This year won’t be easy for the rider who claims the 2011 title.
The final round is expected to use at least six bulls that have been used in short rounds at BFTS events, which should be an advantage to those riders adept at competing at PBR events.
Davidson, a former bullfighter who now promotes several PBR Canada events, said the final Saturday and Sunday “are truly two of the greatest days of rodeo.”
Each pool of 10 riders will compete for four days with the Top 4 money earners in each pool advancing to the final round. The remaining 12 riders will compete on the second Saturday with the two top riders earning the final two spots in the championship draw.
On the final day, the Stampede will pay out $100,000 to the winner of each event – making it the richest hour in rodeo – and, according to Davidson, it affords athletes in events other than bull riding an opportunity to make a living.
At the same time, Stampede organizers are adamant in wanting what he called “the best of the best,” which is why they invite some of the top PBR riders to compete.
With regard to the money available, Davidson added, “It’s exciting, and people want to see that stuff. It’s like the million-dollar bonus to the PBR World Champion – people want to see that.”
As impressive as the list of competing athletes is the support the event receives from city’s direct involvement.
Calgarians have long embraced the Stampede, helping to make it the world-renowned success that it’s become over the years.
“There’s a tremendous history and passion in that city toward that event,” Davidson explained. “It truly is the ‘Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.’ They pegged it right there. They don’t need to say any more, and every citizen in that city plays some sort of role.”
He likened the final round to being game seven of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals on home ice.
The 20,000 in attendance would love nothing more than to cheer a Canadian on to victory, but more importantly, they want to witness the best competition regardless of what country the riders hail from.
“It’s chilling to watch a hometown guy do such great things,” Davidson said. “You can make all the comparisons, but unless the home team comes to win – prepared to win mentally – it can go to the other guy easily.
“All the elements are there for greatness, and it happens time and time again.”
NEWS AND NOTES
More information is available at CalgaryStampede.com. Previews and coverage of the final weekend will be available at PBR.com.
— by Keith Ryan Cartwright
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