PUEBLO, Colo. – It isn’t always glorious hearing his alarm clock buzzing at five in the morning, but Michael Lane knows if he wants to make it back to the Built Ford Tough Series then he better be willing to put in the work.
Work doesn’t just include his 4-5 hours at the gym per day either, it also includes the multiple hours per week he puts in with his side business, Lane’s Lawn Care.
The Tazewell, Virginia, bull rider recently launched his landscaping business in North Carolina as a way to make some additional money to fund his bull riding career, while also setting himself up for a future when he decides to hang up his bull rope for good.
However, Lane has no plans on giving up on his bull riding dreams any time soon.
The 26-year-old thinks he has another good 10 years left in his career, and Lane has certainly been thinking about the Las Vegas heat when he has been working at various locations throughout the humid North Carolina spring.
He simply can’t wait for his Built Ford Tough Series season debut next week at Last Cowboy Standing.
Lane, who is currently 63rd in the PBR world standings, has a guaranteed spot in the draw courtesy of his Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event victory in Milwaukee on April 8.
“I know I am capable of riding as well as any of those Top 35 guys,” Lane said Wednesday morning before heading to work. “I just have certain days and times where I truly have trouble believing in myself. I have really worked on that. Having my win on the Velocity Tour was such a humbling and emotional moment for me. It taught me so much in that moment.”
Lane is one of five riders that punched their ticket to Las Vegas via Velocity Tour victory exemptions. Joining Lane at Last Cowboy Standing as Velocity Tour invites are Cody Heffernan, Jesse Tillman and Skeeter Kingsolver.
Joao Ricardo Vieira also earned a bid, but he is already ranked within the Top 35 of the world standings.
“Working keeps my mind clear and I have motivation to win and build on this business,” Lane said.
Last Cowboy Standing will be his first BFTS event since competing at the Feb. 2016 event in Sacramento, California.
Lane qualified for the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals via a Velocity Tour wild card position, and he really spearheaded his push to his first World Finals qualification that season with a career-high 88-point ride on Gentleman Jim at the first Last Cowboy Standing to be held at the outdoor MGM Village.
The ride helped Lane tie with good friend Gage Gay for the Round 1 victory and he wound up finishing in fourth place – a career-best.
Lane is hoping for a repeat performance this year in Vegas.
Just like then, this will be his first BFTS event of the season.
Though, he is planning on an even better finish in 2017.
“It worked for me once before,” Lane said. “It can easily happen again. I am going in with the mentality this time that I don’t want to win just a round. I want to be the underdog and come out and win the whole thing.”
Last Cowboy Standing is a minimum of two rounds and a maximum of five. At least 25 riders will advance to Round 2, with any draw spots being filled by the current world standings heading into Last Cowboy Standing if there are less than 25 rides in Round 1.
If all riders buck off in Rounds 2, 3 or 4 then all riders that attempted a bull advance to the next round.
If there is more than one ride in the final round (Round 5), then the Last Cowboy Standing will be the rider with the highest-ride score in Round 5. If there are no rides in Round 5, then the Last Cowboy Standing will be the rider with the most round points that had competed in Round 5.
Lane last competed at the Sean Willingham Invitational in Chattanooga, Tennessee, going 0-for-1, on April 21.
He is only 4-for-18 (22.22 percent) this season in 13 Velocity Tour events.
To say his slow start was frustrating would be an understatement, especially considering Lane finished 2016 with three consecutive Top-5 finishes at Velocity Tour regular-season events despite a left ankle injury.
“The first three months of this year was kind of rough for me, but I never looked back at that,” Lane admitted. “I didn’t focus on that.”
Still, it was far from easy.
“When you are putting 4-5 hours in at the gym and then you go three months and only ride two or three bulls, it is truly hard for any guy to feel confident,” Lane continued. “When you put in the work, I knew it wouldn’t come right away. Once I did finally get that win, it showed me I wasn’t putting these long hours in the gym for nothing.”
A big key for Lane this year is that even as his confidence may have wavered, he stayed committed to his training and dieting program unlike last year.
In 2016, Lane failed to follow up his career-best 37th-place finish in the world standings by only competing in three BFTS events and finishing 67th in the world standings.
“I was going through the motions about not being on tour,” Lane said. “Fighting my head a little bit and not being where I was and not expecting it. I never make excuses, but you do have times where you aren’t riding the best and your draw isn’t the best. You put two negatives and it is hard to stay positive on it. That and being unhealthy.”
Lane will compete at this weekend’s Choctaw Pines Casino Louisiana Shoot Out Touring Pro Division event in Alexandria, Louisiana, on Saturday night, as well as an open bull riding next week, in preparation for Last Cowboy Standing.
“I am pumped for Last Cowboy Standing,” Lane concluded. “I am excited to be back.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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