DENVER – Tuesday night the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event at the National Western Stock Show featured an international showdown between 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi and 2016 PBR Australia Champion Cody Heffernan in a bonus bull match.
Heffernan came out on top after an 86-point ride on Freckled Fire. Heffernan had already won night two of the competition (86.5 points on Rock Bottom), but his second ride on Tuesday made him $5,000 richer. Marchi rode Slider for 84 points.
“Yeah, that’s a great Tuesday,” Heffernan said. “That first bull faked left, went right and it did really feel good. I got that bonus bull and now I’m full of confidence.”
It was a solid night’s work for a rider who arrived on the Built Ford Tough Series last year full of promise after achieving his goal of winning the Australian title. He struggled in 2016, going 6-for-38 on the BFTS, but competed for the Built Ford Tough World Finals as an alternate and has been working on building consistency ever since.
Heffernan rode Black Diamond for 82.5 points in Round 2 in New York last weekend, and with his two bulls Tuesday, he is now 3-for-5 at all levels of competition in the New Year.
“I won the (Australian) title last year then came back here in August and I just couldn’t ride a gate on a windy day,” Heffernan said. “I went back home after World Finals and really dedicated myself to the sport, working on things and trying to get that consistency.”
It paid off for Heffernan, who emerged on top Tuesday night.
Dener Barbosa (86 points on Diamond in the Rough), Kurt Shephard (85.5 points on House of Pain), Alex Cardozo (84.5 points on YETI 110) and Neil Holmes (84 points on Bad Idea) rounded out the Top 5.
Qualifiers from Monday and Tuesday’s rounds will compete in Wednesday’s long round before the Top 15 advance to the championship round where the winner will be crowned.
Kaique Pacheco (87.5 points), Brennon Eldred (87 points), Jake Gowdy (86.5 points), Heffernan (86.5 points), Barbosa (86 points) and Zane Lambert (86 points) are the Top 5 riders from the first two nights of competition heading into Wednesday.
Along with the world standings points, the winner will earn an exemption to the Frontier Communications Iron Cowboy in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 18 where $100,000 will be on the line.
Wednesday night will feature Heffernan, Marchi, Pacheco, 2004 World Champion Mike Lee, Neil Holmes and Fabiano Vieira.
Heffernan, though, is keeping his focus on what’s in front of him and taking things one step at a time as he finally feels like he has adjusted to the North American game.
“Tonight, I was definitely clicking,” Heffernan said. “I was watching the broadcast from New York and Ty Murray said that I was very promising, but I just needed to catch up to these bulls.
“It’s an adjustment to my riding style, very little mistake that I constantly do and I had been talking to a lot of people. I talked to a past Australian champion, Brad Scott, and he pointed it out to me.”
Turns out Heffernan was placing his hand in the wrong spot in the bucking chute. He applied the change Tuesday to great success.
“On bulls that leave to the left,” Heffernan said. “I had been leaving with my free arm too far on the bucking chutes, so I was hanging on a bit too long. I’m naturally going to go forward with the bull, but because my arm is so far forward when the bull comes out it’s already on the right side of the bull and it’s already twisting my shoulders.”
It was a little change that made a big difference for Heffernan, and he hopes to carry that momentum into Wednesday night and beyond.
“I’m not getting any younger, so you got to set those goals high,” Heffernan said. “Everybody here wants to be a World Champion, it’s just how bad you want it.”
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