NEW YORK ― In 2008, when Justin McBride announced late in the season that he was retiring from the sport of professional bull riding at the conclusion of the World Finals, it took all but those who were closest to him by surprise.
Fellow riders and observers argued that the two-time World Champion, among the best riders to ever compete in the PBR, was leaving behind an opportunity to win one or two more world titles.
Much like his hero, Bobby Steiner, who was inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor in 2005, McBride chose to retire in the prime of his career. Given that he was only 28 years old, many thought he would eventually change his mind.
Those who were surprised in the first place may have known the record-setting bull rider, but they obviously didn't know the man making the decision.
McBride has never been one to speak out of turn, or say anything he truly doesn't believe.
It's those characteristics that make his unsolicited tweet last weekend all the more meaningful.
On Saturday, McBride tweeted, "I'm liking a healthy kody lohstroh (sic) to contend this year!"
Amid all the records McBride has to his credit ― namely being the richest western athlete of all-time with more than $5.1 million in career earnings ― the Nebraska native is best known for knowing how to win. Whether it was world titles (2), or events in a single-season (8), he would not often be denied making the whistle.
In addition to the expectations he set for himself as rider, he's set the same standards for today's riders in his work as a television analyst.
In Kody Lostroh, he sees a winner.
Lostroh, 27, is in his ninth season on the Built Ford Tough Series and has battled through a frustrating series of injuries since winning the gold buckle in 2009.
"Well, let's hope he has a good prediction, because I'm counting on it too," Lostroh said. "It always feels good when people believe in you, and to have a two-time World Champion say something like that, it's pretty neat to me. I've been on the other end of it too, where nobody believed I could do it and I pulled it out.
"Maybe this year, I'll have everybody on my side."
"It's been just a long uphill battle, but I feel like I finally reached the peak and I'm ready to rock and roll."
After three years of twice finishing fifth in the world standings (2006, 2008) and sixth (2007), Lostroh was atop the standings in 2009 when he tore a tendon in the left elbow of his riding arm in April. With six months remaining in what is already a grueling ten-month season, Lostroh postponed surgery and labored on.
Although most experts didn't think his arm would hold up, especially after he suffered a shoulder injury in the second half of the season, Lostroh won the closest title race in PBR history.
He held off J.B. Mauney, who covered all eight bulls at the World Finals, on the final day to win by a mere 594 points.
Less than two weeks later, he underwent the first of several surgeries.
His first procedure in November of 2011 was followed by a second procedure in March of 2010 to repair his left shoulder and elbow, and allow a broken bone in his lower right leg to heal. A year later, he missed six events after suffering a left knee injury.
After four straight Top-10 finishes, including his world title, he finished 28th, 22nd and 19th, respectively in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
"I feel as good as I have in several years," Lostroh said. "It's been just a long uphill battle, but I feel like I finally reached the peak and I'm ready to rock and roll. I'm just craving riding and I love doing what I do."
Last weekend in New York, he went 3-for-4 and finished fifth. He had a chance to win the event had he not bucked off his Built Ford Tough Championship Round bull.
He made a pair of textbook rides in the first two rounds ― earning 86.75 points and 85.5 points ― but fell 14.25 points behind Mauney in the average after declining a re-ride opportunity in the third round. Lostroh kept 74.5 points on Mac Nett's Southern Wine, who had an uncharacteristically-subpar outing, knowing he and Mauney would be the only two riders in the final round with three scores to their credit.
Mauney took Rock & Roll, while Lostroh selected King Lopez.
Both came down early, however, and Robson Palermo went from eighth in the average to first with a 90-point effort on Whitewater Trouble.
"We have a long season ahead of us," said Lostroh, who is currently eighth in the world standings. "My goal is to enjoy this and do my best, because the winning comes with doing my best. That's all I have to do."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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