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Behind the Chutes: 2014 World Finals, Round 1

LAS VEGAS – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Built Ford Tough World Finals on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

1. Harris makes splashing debut

J.W. Harris said he had one goal, and one goal only, this week at the World Finals and that was to win as much money as possible. After one night, Harris is in line for a potentially nice paycheck of $250,000 following his Round 1 winning-ride aboard Jo Jo.

The four-time PRCA champion made the 8-second mark for 88.75 points for the top ride of the round on a night in which there were 15 qualified rides.

“It was pretty cool,” Harris said. “It is something that has been long overdue. To come out here and win the first round in my first PBR Finals (is good). So now it is all smooth sailing.”

It is the second time Harris has ridden Jo Jo this year. He previously rode the bovine athlete for 86.75 points in Thackerville, Oklahoma, in August.

“You can’t fall off one that you already rode once this year,” Harris said. “To get the first one knocked out and that kind of knocks the edge off a little bit and you come in here relaxed and have a little bit more fun. There is still a lot of money in the average and that is what we are going for.”

2. Mauney breaks slump

J.B. Mauney knows when he is riding poorly and he certainly doesn’t need anyone to ever remind him of his struggles.

Mauney began the World Finals in the biggest slump of his career after putting up a goose egg in his past 12 attempts, but on Wednesday night the 2013 World Champion finally regained his momentum by covering More Big Bucks for 88 points.

It had been almost two months since Mauney had been able to celebrate an 8-second ride.

“It’s been a while. I didn’t know what that weird noise was and it was the whistle,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t like falling off and I fell off more bulls in the second half this season back-to-back-back than I ever had in my entire life. I had just been fighting my head and trying too hard and thinking too much.”

Instead of getting on more practice bulls before the World Finals, Mauney decided to finally listen to his wife, Lexie, and just take a break to recharge mentally and physically.

“She said, ‘You know how to ride bulls. Practice isn’t going to change anything.’

“I was trying to fix stuff that wasn’t broke and that is why I was having so much heck,” Mauney added. “I took last weekend off and didn’t even think about bull riding. I didn’t get on no practice bulls and I didn’t think about bull riding until I got in the bucking chute tonight.”

Mauney heads into Round 2 third in the event average and said that if he could win the World Finals event title for a third time it would be a good way to make up for a disappointing season by his standards.

“Shoot, I’m ready to go now,” Mauney said. “That would put some icing on that burned cake this year.”

3. World title race only gets tighter

Joao Ricardo Vieira said repeatedly in the past two weeks that he felt no pressure beginning the Finals atop the world standings in the No. 1 position. However, after watching four of the Top 6 riders in the world standings make the 8-second mark, Vieira could not take advantage of a solid Round 1 matchup against Bruiser.

Bruiser got the best of Vieira and tossed the world leader to the ground in 3.44 seconds, opening the door for Silvano Alves (86.25 points onDumber), Guilherme Marchi (86 points on Flyin’ Crazy), Mike Lee (87.25 points on McIntyre Transports 029 Back Jackin) and Matt Triplett (87.25 points on Pearl Harbor) after the group of riders all came through in Round 1.

Alves moves into second in the world standings after Fabiano Vieira bucked off Savage in 7.55 seconds.

Alves trails Joao Ricardo Vieira by 399.94 points. Marchi cuts Vieira’s lead to 933.44 points.

Lee remains fifth in the world standings and is now behind the top spot in the world by 1,121.19 points. He is tied with Triplett for fourth in the event average.

“So far it looks like it is going to be pretty good watching,” Lee said. “It is definitely fun to be  a part of and a privilege. I put on bull riding schools and there are thousands of kids that would take our spot in a heartbeat.”

Injury Updates

Three-time World Finals event-winner Robson Palermo sprained his left ankle when he was stepped on by Smooth Operator in Round 1 and is expected to compete in Round 2.

Valdiron de Oliveira is also expected to be good to go on Thursday after lacerating his chin and having it sutured in the sports medicine room when he collided with Long John on Wednesday night.

Gustavo Pedrero iwas transported to UMC Trauma Center for X-rays of his right arm after being stepped on by Gangster Sign in Round 1.

At this point in the season, injuries are just a way of life for many of the riders on the BFTS.

Sixteen riders competed in Round 1 that were listed on Dr. Tandy Freeman’s injury report:  Zane Lambert (left shoulder subluxation), Fabiano Vieira(unstable right shoulder/free arm), Marchi (sprained right knee), Triplett (left hip flexor strain), Valdiron de Oliveira (chronic lower back injury with right-sided sciatica), Kasey Hayes (fractured jaw), Renato Nunes (unstable right shoulder/free arm), Ryan Dirteater (injured riding hand), Emilio Resende (knee sprain), Claudio Crisostomo (broken left clavicle), Ty Pozzobon (right knee sprain/sprained left riding hand/left inguinal hernia), Douglas Duncan (torn ligament in his left thumb of his riding hand), Harris (lower back strain), Kody Lostroh (broken left ankle), Billy Robinson (sports hernia).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

ROUND 1 STORYLINES (10-22-14)

LAS VEGAS – The Built Ford Tough World Finals officially gets underway on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center and there will be plenty to watch for between Round 1 and Sunday’s Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

Here are some storylines to keep an eye on in Round 1.

Who sets the tone among the world leaders?

There is a general consensus among PBR experts that there has yet to be a rider atop of the world standings that has solidified himself as the leading contender for the 2014 world title. If anything, there are more questions than answers.

Joao Ricardo Vieira has a strong chance of building on his 511.63-point lead over No. 2 Fabiano Vieira when he faces Bruiser in one of nine rematches in Round 1. He previously rode the bovine athlete for 88.75 points in Thackerville, Oklahoma.

“I am very happy to be coming here in the No. 1 position and I going to try and ride all of my bulls,” he said on Tuesday courtesy of Miriaham Contreras translating.

Fabiano Vieira, who takes on Savage, has the most glaring question among the top riders in the world standings.

How will his unstable right shoulder hold up over the course of Finals?

In his eyes, it will not be an issue.

“My shoulder feels about 85 percent,” he said.

No. 3 rider Silvano Alves enters the night trailing Joao Ricardo Vieira by 516.19 points and also has a rematch in Round 1. Alves takes on Dumber, a bull that bucked him off in less than two seconds in Fresno, California.

No. 4 Guilherme Marchi has lost 10 pounds since the beginning of the second half in hopes of being leaner for the World Finals and No. 5 Mike Lee has been hot and cold in the second half – winning two events, while also going rideless in five events.

Will past World Finals event winners play spoiler?

In a year where there has been inconsistency atop the world standings, this year’s Finals may be primed for a former World Finals event winner or non-World Champion contender to affect the world title race.

In addition to Marchi and Lee, there are four other World Finals event winners competing this week: defending champion J.B. Mauney, three-time World Finals event winner Robson Palermo, 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes and 2006 event winner L.J. Jenkins.

Mauney, who is mired in a 0-for-12 slump, and Nunes both have good Round 1 matchups. Mauney has a rematch with More Big Bucks after riding the bull for 88 points in Thackerville.

According to PBR statistician Slade Long, Mauney has a 62 percent riding average at the World Finals.

Nunes takes on Jack Daniel’s After Party, a bull that has been ridden in 6-of-7 times this season for an average score of 89.33 points.

Will yoga pay off for Matt Triplett?

No. 6 Matt Triplett took multiple yoga lessons, including hot yoga, this week in Las Vegas to continue gaining flexibility for his push at World Finals.

Triplett will likely need to cover most of his bulls to have a legitimate shot at coming from behind to win this year’s world title. He is 2,026.67 points behind Joao Ricardo Vieira.

Last year, Triplett went 3-for-6 at his first World Finals. He rode Whiskey’s Rebel for 88.75 points.

Triplett takes on Pearl Harbor in the first round.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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