DENVER – Neil Holmes’ cowboy hat went flying into the air and the left-handed bull rider began to throw his right free arm and fight for position on Bad Idea.
The ride appeared to be setting up for another devastating wreck for Holmes, who has been unable to finish the past two Built Ford Tough World Finals after getting knocked unconscious during the early rounds.
On Tuesday night, though, Holmes was able to keep himself from getting roughed over the front of Bad Idea and the 31-year-old was able to fight through for 84 points during the second night of the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event at the National Western Stock Show.
“I had seen that bull and he was a little squirty out there and did the same deal,” Holmes said. “I knew he would be like that and I tried to keep a seat and wait for him to come around like he did.”
Last year, Holmes tried riding with a helmet in Denver only to get knocked out by Slim Kitty.
Has Holmes thought about maybe trying to wear a helmet again?
“I wore it for a little bit,” Holmes said. “Hell, if I wanted to wear a helmet I would go play football.”
What about making an adjustment to his riding style?
“I take quite a few hits, unfortunately because of my riding style throughout the season,” Holmes said. I am trying a little harder over anticipating things. It is still bull riding. I kind of have to sit there and ride and not anticipate it or get to anxious with it.
“At the Finals, like everything does, it turns up a notch. When you are there at the Finals. Everything is going around you and your adrenaline is pumping. You are going 100 mph. The best thing to do is kind of sit down and relax. Slow down to just keep up.”
Holmes is trying to qualify for the World Finals for a third consecutive season, but he began the season outside of the Built Ford Tough Series.
He has qualified for the World Finals in back-to-back season via the Velocity Tour Finals, and he is hoping this year he can ride full time on the Built Ford Tough Series after finishing last year 54th in the world standings.
“Last year, I kind of spread myself thin across a couple of different associations, and this year I am going to just focus on the PBR. I am going to put all of my energy there and see how I do.”
Holmes best season came in 2015 when he competed in eight BFTS events and finished 40th in the world.
This year, he plans on finishing what he starts at the World Finals in November.
“That’s the thing,” Holmes said. “I haven’t completed the Finals. Hopefully, I will ride a bull there and get one under the belt.”
Holmes was one of 18 qualified rides on Tuesday night. He heads into Wednesday’s finale sitting in 15th place overall.
Kaique Pacheco (87.5 points), Brennon Eldred (87 points), Jake Gowdy (86.5 points), Cody Heffernan (86.5 points), Dener Barbosa (86 points) and Zane Lambert (86 points) are the Top 5 riders from the first two nights of competition heading into Wednesday.
The winner of the Denver Velocity Tour event earns an automatic bid to the Built Ford Tough Series Frontier Communications Iron Cowboy event on Feb. 18.
“That is all we want to do now,” Holmes said. “Keep moving forward and hopefully we will be in the short round.”
The Houston native said it would be extremely special for him to make a second trip to AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys. He competed at the 2015 Iron Cowboy event.
“I am already planning on that so I better win now,” Holmes said.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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