LAS VEGAS – Two-time PRCA champion Sage Kimzey arrived at South Point Arena at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday night and rolled his gear bag into the BlueDEF Tour locker room.
He confidently placed his bag in a corner, pulled his bull rope out and began getting his gear ready for Round 2 of the BlueDEF Tour Finals.
One day after bucking off Switch Hitter (4.52 seconds) in Round 1, there was already a different look to Kimzey then the uneasy one from a night earlier.
This time around, Kimzey knew what to expect. He was a day wiser about how the PBR performance was run and, obviously, was very much aware that he needed a qualified ride if he wants any shot of riding at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Wednesday.
Three hours later, and Kimzey was making chump change out of Scary Harry.
The 22-year-old is right back in the mix at the BlueDEF Finals courtesy of his 85-point ride in Round 2.
“All of the unknown was taken out tonight,” Kimzey said. “That is the stuff I don’t like. Not having a clue of what is going on. I got in a good routine tonight and everything felt really good. I felt really confident crawling over the back of him and that is when I ride the best.”
He heads into the last night of the BlueDEF Tour Finals Monday sitting tied for eighth place and is very much alive in the race to earn one of five World Finals wild card positions up for grabs.
“I definitely can,” Kimzey said. “It is still anybody’s game. Bull riding, there is no predicting what is going to happen. I just have to stay on two more bulls and let the chips fall where they may.”
2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa is the only rider 2-for-2, and is the leading front runner for the international wild card spot, meaning Kimzey and the other 17 riders with one score on the board can still slip off with a bid to the World Finals if they can finish within the Top 5 of the event standings.
The Top-2 riders that finish inside the Top 5 of the BlueDEF Finals event, that have not have already qualified for the World Finals, earn wild card bids.
Round 3 begins on PBR LIVE starting at 9:30 p.m. ET.
Round 2 winner Neil Holmes had just ridden Gambini for 88 points before he ran back to the chutes to offer some encouragement to Kimzey Sunday night.
“I have seen Sage at a couple of different events throughout the year,” Holmes said. “He is a good friend of mine. I just wanted him to get a bull rode and knock the edge off. Everybody is kind of expecting to see what he is going to do. He is built for this. I am glad he is here and doing well.”
Kimzey probably didn’t need any words of advice.
He knew what was at stake and arrived at the arena with a new gameplan for his pre-ride preparation.
At 7:55 p.m., Kimzey knew he was 10 riders away from riding and went to go get his bull rope.
He then stood on the back of the chutes at 8:13 p.m. and wiped a bead of sweat from his lips as he waited for his bull to be loaded in.
Two minutes later, he squatted down to stretch and jumped up to pound his chest before locking the straps of his helmet and climbing onto Scary Harry.
At 8:20 p.m., he kicked loose aboard Scary Harry for a comfortable 8 seconds.
“I went back to my room right after the bull riding (Saturday) and just reflected on the whole night,”Kimzey said. “I kind of got that routine set up to where everything would line up for tonight. As soon as I got here, I took my rope out of my bag and got it warmed up. I got everything done. I started getting changed and came down for the opening.
“Then I went back out and got in the zone. I put my headphones in and zoned out. The world is dead to me at that point. I just get my mind clear and get ready to compete.”
Kimzey went back to his hotel room on Saturday night following Round 1 and talked things over with his girlfriend, Alexis Bloomer.
He reflected on his PBR debut and quickly shook off his frustrations.
“If we weren’t getting bucked off it wouldn’t be any fun to watch,” Kimzey said with a smile. “I hated that it was the first round of the BlueDEF Finals, and it didn’t take away any opportunity, but it definitely didn’t help me.
“It is on myself to help myself. I don’t lean on anybody for me to have success. There are a lot of people that do support me and have for a long time.”
Kimzey was appreciative of the text messages of support he received from family and friends following Round 1 on Saturday.
“I had a few close friends that texted me, ‘Shake it off brother and get on to the next one,’ Kimzey said. “That is the plan from the get go. That is bull riding.”
Kimzey didn’t call his first ride on the BlueDEF Tour a relief.
Instead, he expects it to be the beginning.
“It is not a whole lot of relief,” he said. “I am not mad at myself now. That was a little bit of redemption right there. Yesterday, I just didn’t do my job. Today, I came in and I was mentally ready. I am physically ready. I feel like I am in the best shape of my life.”
He will need to make 8 seconds on Alligator Arms (31-7, PBR) in Round 3 to keep his World Finals hopes alive. Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney rode Alligator Arms for 87.5 points in Nashville this past August.
“Now it is all putting it together and making it 8 seconds at time,” Kimzey concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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