CALGARY, Alta. - Tanner Byrne ended the 2016 season on a high note, ranked No. 15 in the world standings, and earning his third consecutive Glen Keeley Award as the Canadian-born rider with the most world points.
He was also the first Canadian rider in 13 years to win two regular-season Built Ford Tough Series events.
That momentum, however, did not carry over into 2017. The Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, bull rider’s 2017 campaign has been plagued with injuries, primarily a torn groin, that have relegated him to the sidelines for the majority of this season.
That will change at Wednesday’s PBR Canada Touring Pro Division event in Calgary, Alberta, where Byrne will compete for the first time since March. Calgary is the first of a slew of events he plans to hit this summer in an effort to better position himself in the points race.
“I got on a practice bull yesterday and I didn’t feel any pain with it at all, so I think we’re good to go,” Byrne said. “We’ll see how the next little while goes, but yesterday I put a lot of torque on it and it didn’t hurt one bit so hopefully that will keep rolling.”
For Byrne, his season never truly got off the ground. Ahead of the BFTS season opener in New York’s Madison Square Garden, a practice bull stepped on Byrne’s shoulder, breaking his collar bone and shoulder blade.
Byrne faced eight weeks of recovery.
The injury postponed his season-debut until February’s Last Cowboy Standing in Arlington, Texas, but Byrne’s next roadblock came the following weekend in St. Louis, Missouri.
After logging a qualified ride aboard Johnny for 84.75 points, Byrne was stepped on and hooked by the bull following his get off. As a result, he was forced into a split, partially tearing the muscles in his groin.
Byrne took a four week hiatus from competition to recover, and believing he was healthy enough, made his return in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the Ty Murray Invitational.
That comeback, however, lasted just two bulls and 4.44 seconds.
Byrne left Albuquerque with two completely torn groin muscles, and partial tears in two others.
Byrne then flew to Calgary where he met with a team of specialists that work primarily with hockey players who have sustained similar injuries.
“They gave me a full regimen for strengthening my groin,” Byrne said. “Two of the muscles were torn straight off the bone, so they’re not going to reattach or anything like that. It’s all about getting everything else in there stronger so that they’ll take over for those two that aren’t going to be working anymore.”
Over the past four months Byrne has diligently been working through his treatment, which included riding horses bareback, and he feels strong ahead of tonight’s return to competition.
He will face Bondara in Round 1.
“I’m just going to do what I’ve been doing and not make a game plan for it, just ride the bull,” Byrne said.
Following the event in Calgary, Byrne will head to Wanham, Alberta, on June 16 and Ponoka, Alberta, on June 23 before traveling to Toronto for the third Monster Energy Tour event of the season on June 24th.
Byrne fully intends on being ready for the BFTS’ second half, which begins Aug. 12 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I want to go really hard this summer and get back in motion, get back riding to where I know I’m feeling good going into the Built Ford Toughs again,” Byrne said. “I’ll be going to all the PBR Canada events and start hitting as many Velocity events as I can. I’m trying to hit a big run here and get some points gathered up to get myself back in the Top 35 and back in the game.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, the 2015 PBR Canada Champion has his eyes on taking the title for a second time.
“It’s been kind of a crazy year with everything that’s been going on, but I’d really like to win the Canadian Championship this year.”
For now, though, he plans to take it one bull at a time.
“I’m not too sure of myself just yet, only being on one bull, so it’s going to take a little bit of time I’m sure to get that momentum back rolling,” Byrne said. “We’ll just keep going from there.”
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