No bull, Lambert riding high

Alberta bull rider Zane Lambert has returned from a serious injury and is about to is about to take his show on the road (Al Charest/Postmedia Network)

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BY IAN SHANTZ, TORONTO SUN

TORONTO — - Zane Lambert blacked out.

As such, he has no memory of the horrific wreck that left him with two collapsed lungs, five broken ribs and the scare of his career.

“I don’t remember anything about it. It happened pretty fast,” the professional bull rider from Ponoka, Alta., said. “I remember the bull left me a little behind, and then I went over his head. That’s the last thing I remember.”

Lambert, a 30-year-old who has been riding bulls professionally for 17 years, was recalling the most serious accident of his career, in May at the Stavely rodeo in Alberta. Upon being bucked off soon after leaving the chutes, his bull proceeded to stomp on the back of his head and then on his chest, which caused significant bleeding.

Lambert was air-lifted to Foothills hospital in Calgary, where he remained for 10 days, ultimately missing nine weeks on the Pro Rodeo Canada Series, the Professional Bull Riders’ circuit. He returned in time for last month’s Calgary Stampede and now the cowboy is about to take his show on the road, with PBR announcing a new, seven-city national bull-riding series spanning five provinces. The PBR Monster Energy Canada Tour opens at TD Place in Ottawa on Aug. 20 before stops in London (Aug. 26-27), Hamilton (Sept. 9-10) and then Winnipeg, Calgary, Abbotsford, B.C., and Saskatoon.

Lambert, a Canadian champion in 2013 and a four-time world finals competitor, said he has struggled to rebuild the required muscles and corresponding quickness needed to be a successful rider, but there was never any doubt in his mind about getting back in the saddle as soon as possible. Riding bulls is what the Westbourne, Man.-raised Lambert has always done, starting in the high school circuit and working his way up to becoming one of Canada’s veterans on the pro circuit.

“I’ve seen lots of bull-riding wrecks. It’s something that comes with it,” the world’s current 114-ranked rider said. “I’d never been to the hospital like that before, but I’ve definitely been run over and trampled before. I kind of accepted it long ago, that this is a dangerous sport. You have to (accept it) in order to lay it all on the line. The less you know, the better.”

Lambert and others have been through Ontario before, but the new tour marks the first unified competitive PBR series travelling across the country and televised throughout, on TSN. There will be a total purse of $25,000 in prize money per event, as well as an additional $25,000 in bonus cash for the top point-earner in Saskatoon, an event that doubles as a world championship qualifier.

“I hope to keep going. That’s definitely the goal. At least until I’m 35,” Lambert said. “I have one title from 2013 and I’ve love to repeat that and get another one under my belt, for bragging rights.

“(The recent accident) made me realize how short a bull-riding career can be,” said Lambert, who relies solely on bull-riding to pay the bills. “I’ve been at is for about (17 years professionally), but it sure doesn’t feel like it.”

NOT HIS FIRST RODEO

Zane Lambert is somewhat familiar with the Ontario cities he and other top-level professional bull riders will be visiting later this month as part of the PBR Monster Energy Canada Tour.

“A lot of one-way streets,” the Calgary resident said of Hamilton, adding he participated in the ceremonial puck-drop prior to an Ontario Hockey League game in London his last time in that city and Ottawa is “obviously the capital.”

The 30-year-old hopes the upcoming swing through the province can help the general public familiarize itself with the unique sport of bull riding with an eye of growing it outside established hotbeds in Brazil, Australia and parts of the U.S.

“It’s something different that they’re not used to seeing,” Lambert said. “It’s a good, upbeat sport. It’s much deeper than it looks at first.”

It’s billed as an eight-second contest of strength, balance, endurance and effort between the world’s best rides and the world’s best bucking bulls, making it a true individual sport.

“You’re your own team, much like golf,” Lambert said. “You get what you put into it. You’re as good as you want to be. There are no coaches. You’re all on your own.”

Lambert, who has travelled throughout North American and also Australia, recalled attracting big crowds in Hamilton the circuit came to Ontario. After the first stop at Ottawa’s TD Place, PBR will be at Budweiser Gardens in London Aug. 26-27, then Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre Sept. 9-10 before heading west.

“Not all the younger guys are able to do it full-time. I hope that changes,” Lambert said. “Being able to focus on everything you do, when you can put everything into it, it becomes that much easier.”

GIDDY UP!

Monster Energy PBR Canada Tour schedule:

Aug. 20-TD Place, Ottawa

Aug. 26-27-Budweiser Gardens, London

Sept. 9-10-FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton

Sept. 16-17-MTS Centre, Winnipeg, Man.

Sept. 23-24-Corral Centre, Calgary, Alt.

Sept. 30-Oct. 1-Abbotsford Centre, Abbotsford, B.C.

Oct. 14-15-SaskTel Centre, Saskatoon, Sask.

ishantz@postmedia.com

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