PUEBLO, Colo. – In a little over week, the PBR’s Built Ford Tough Series 2016 season will get underway at Allstate Arena in Chicago on Jan. 9-10.
A new year and a new season means a chance to start over for every rider in the PBR.
Here are eight riders that will certainly be looking forward to new opportunities in 2016.
There are plenty of riders in the PBR that would love to have finished 2015 ranked 12th in the world standings, but expectations are always going to be higher when you are a three-time World Champion like Silvano Alves.
Alves was by no means vocally disappointed in his first finish outside of the Top-2 of the world standings in five years. Other than an eighth-place finish during his rookie season (2010), Alves has been a consistent World Champion contender every season.
Even in 2015, Alves looked to be on the cusp of a record-setting fourth world title before fracturing his left hip, which needed to be surgically repaired, in Nampa, Idaho. At the time of his injury, Alves was fourth in the world standings.
Alves was a shell of his former self following three-plus months of recovery post-surgery and never seemed to regain his confidence or previous riding ability.
The 28-year-old showed glimpse of his prior form, but he will certainly like to regain his previous consistency – he is a career 58 percent bull rider – in 2016.
A new start and a new healthy season may potentially mean a fourth championship for Alves.
Joao Ricardo Vieira
Joao Ricardo Vieira was much closer than Alves when it came to winning the 2015 World Championship.
However, Vieira fell apart during the final three months of the season, going 8-for-26 (30.77 percent), and saw a 1,002.5-point lead atop the world standings turn into a 2,305-point deficit by season’s end.
Experts within the sport believe Vieira’s struggles riding bulls way from his hand will forever be a hindrance on his world title aspirations until he can improve his conversion rate away from his hand.
Still, despite his struggles, the 2013 Rookie of the Year has finished within the Top-3 of the world standings in each of his three seasons on the BFTS.
Will a new year finally help Vieira get over the hump?
The 28-year-old has spent the past two seasons scratching and clawing to stay on the BFTS and qualify for the World Finals.
In fact, Duncan was cut from the BFTS briefly in September and used a win at the Cleveland, Ohio, BlueDEF Tour event to squeak into the Finals.
Duncan, who will be the first to admit he hasn’t gotten the job done the past two seasons, struggled at the Finals (0-for-5) and finished 35th in the world standings.
He is guaranteed five BFTS events before being subject to the BFTS cutline. If Duncan, who has the talent to succeed in the PBR when healthy, can’t find his groove early on in January, he may be sent to the BlueDEF Tour.
Tyler Harr had one of the more crushing defeats of 2015 when the Slovak, Arkansas, bull rider wound up falling short of qualifying for the World Finals following his 0-for-2 performance at the BlueDEF Finals.
Harr did get to nod his head two times at the World Finals as an alternate, but it was a heartbreaking end for the bull rider who fought through multiple injuries to try and make it to his first Finals.
The 25-year-old impressed experts with his grit and try during the final month of the BFTS.
If Harr can get healthy, he would love to crack the Top 35 for good in 2016 and qualify for the Finals straight up.
How ready is J.B. Mauney for 2016 to begin?
Well, after competing his first December Touring Pro Division event since 2010 Mauney certainly appears ready.
Mauney has been chomping at the bit the past few weeks to get back to riding and he showed no rust in Kearney, Nebraska, with a 2-for-2 second-place finish.
Mauney failed to defend his 2013 world title in 2014.
Cooper Davis doesn’t need a new year for a new start, he is likely ready to build off the momentum he had at the conclusion of 2015.
Davis became the fourth rookie in PBR history to win the World Finals event title and his strong finish to 2015 (12-for-24) has him pegged as an outside contender for the 2016 world title if he can continue to build off his strong rookie campaign.
Sean Willingham missed qualifying for the World Finals for just the second time in 13 seasons on the BFTS this past year.
Willingham has his sails set for a strong bounce back performance in 2016.
Eduardo Aparecido, “Fast Eddie” as two-time World Champion Justin McBride likes to call him, finished the 2015 season on a high-note with a fourth-place finish at the World Finals.
Aparecido went 15-for-29 (51.72 percent) in the final eight BFTS events of 2016.
Aparecido may end up being a dark horse contender in 2016 if he can ride above 50 percent for the entire season.
Prior to his 11th-place finish in the world standings this year, Aparecido finished sixth and seventh during his first two years on tour.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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