RAPID CITY, S.D. (Jan. 28, 2007) In 2006 five years and countless injuries removed from his 2000 world title Cody Hancock began to show his age. After getting off to a roaring start, he succumbed to one injury after another and slowly and painfully watched himself slip out of the top 15 and miss the Wrangler NFR for the second consecutive year.
Unfortunately for most bull riders, 30 years old means the beginning of the end for a competitive career. A sport that beats its participants to a pulp on a nearly weekly basis doesn't see many cowboys make it past 35.
But at the first stop of the Dodge Xtreme Bulls Tour, presented by B & W Trailer Hitches, in Rapid City, S.D., a healthy Hancock showed the youngsters that as a crafty veteran, he's still a threat week in and week out.
On Friday night, during the first round, Hancock rode Burns Rodeo's Crypt Master for 79 points. Sixteen other bull riders covered their bulls the best being an 89-point mark from Cameron Castleberry (Gillette, Wyo.) aboard Broken Arrow's Liquid Courage.
In the second go-round, Hancock was among 19 riders who covered and scored 78. Clayton Williams and Jake Wade each scored 90 points on their bulls. A total of 11 bull riders rode both bulls, and Wade led them all with 171 points.
In the final round, narrowed to 12 riders, Hancock drew Liquid Courage. After seeing four of his fellow bull riders hit the ground too early, Hancock ripped off an 82-point ride, bringing his total to 239 on three.
He had to watch seven other bull riders buck off an extremely tough pen of bulls that included Broken Arrow's Smokeless Wardance and Pandora's Box who Cooper Kanngiesser nearly rode before the title was his.
Lee Akin bucked off a bull, China Grove of Broken Arrow, that he had ridden before and Wade is now 0-for-2 aboard a Southwick, Robertson and Wilson bull named Jimmy Ray.
"It feels good for me," Hancock said. "I was having an outstanding year last year, won Houston and Austin and then pretty much had to sit the summer and fall out. I got hurt quite a few places, tore my groin, tore my MCL, got knocked out three times in a month. I just couldn't get back and healthy. It just feels good to ride some bulls."
Hancock, who has been in charge of procuring the bulls for the Xtreme Bulls for the past two seasons, won $8,742 for his efforts.
"I think finally I'm starting to ride better at these events," he said. "You get here and you're working hard and you're worried about if the bulls are good and if one runs off you think to yourself that you brought him, instead of concentrating on bull riding. I'm starting to figure out how to do both my jobs well."
The bull riders seemed satisfied that it was as even a pen of bulls available in the area for the time of year. In a myriad of ways, Hancock proved he's still got a lot to give to the sport in Rapid City.
"With this group of guys, most of them can't even get in the bars," he said. "It's a young group of guys and they ride spectacular so it feels good to still ride with them."
And if they're paying attention, they ought to be learning a thing or two from their elder statesman.
1. Cameron Castleberry, 89, $2,820
2. Chad Besplug, 88, $2,162
3. Charles Zoss, 85, $1,598
4. Chance Smart, 84, $1,034
5. Lee Akin, 82, $658
6. Jake Wade, 81, $423
6. Kyle Joslin, 81, $423
8. Shane Gordon, 80, $141
8. Ross Kleven, 80, $141
1. Jake Wade, 90, $2,491
1. Clayton Williams, 90, $2,491
3. Jesse Bail, 87, $1,598
4. Cooper Kanngiesser, 86, $1,034
5. Jarrod Ford, 85, $658
6. Ardie Maier, 84, $470
7. Luke Haught, $219
7. Jim Crosby, $219
7. Lee Akin, $219
1. Cody Hancock, 82, $3,102
1. Cody Hancock, 239 on three, $5,640
2. Jake Wade, 171, $4,324
3. Clayton Williams, 166, $3,196
4. Lee Akin, 165, $2,068
5. Chad Besplug, 164, $1,316
6. Cooper Kanngiesser, 163, $940
7. Ardie Maier, 159, $752
8. Ross Kleven, 158, $564
Bob Welch has covered rodeo for six years and in addition to writing for ESPN.com ProRodeo, is the managing editor of Spin to Win magazine and serves as an associate producer onsite for the Xtreme Bulls and Wrangler ProRodeo Tour telecasts. Welch lives with his wife, Kristen, and 2-year-old son, Tate, in Black Forest, Colo.