Behind the Chutes: Biloxi, Day 1

BILOXI, Miss. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Built Ford Tough Series Battle at the Beau on Friday night.

1. Riders fighting to qualify for World Finals come through

On a night that featured 20 total rides, it was the riders on the bottom half of the Top 40 that came up clutch.

L.J. Jenkins, Silvano Alves and Round 1 winner Guilherme Marchi were the only Top-10 riders that registered qualified rides, while 10 riders ranked 25th or lower in the world standings made the 8-second mark.

Claudio Crisostomo, ranked 30th in the world, led the way with 86.5 points on Missouri Boat Ride, which was good enough to tie Chase Outlaw for second in the event average.

2009 World Champion Kody Lostroh began the weekend ranked 36th in the world standings and continued his late-season push to qualify for the Built Ford Tough World Finals by riding Air Up There for 85.75 points, despite dealing with a chronic left-hand injury.

“My hand hurts every time, sometimes more than others, but it is what it is,” Lostroh said. “This Brazilian rope does feel better on my hand, so that has been a plus. I know I ride plenty good enough to do my job and I just have to show up and do it.”

Lostroh has been icing his hand as much as he can when he is home in Colorado during the week.

Jordan Hupp entered the Battle at the Beau as the lowest-ranked rider (38th) competing, and came through with an important 82-point ride on HD.

He is looking to qualify for his fifth consecutive World Finals.

“I have been thinking about it coming into the weekend,” Hupp said. “It’s on my mind and I know I have to do good – but tonight, that was the last thing on my mind. I was just worried about that bull and that is exactly what I need to do: worry about the long-round bull tomorrow, then the short round and then Pennsylvania.”

Josh Faircloth, who entered Biloxi ranked 34th in the world, is trying to earn his first-career bid to World Finals. He said he was nervous all week about being able to compete after suffering a concussion last weekend in Oakland, California.

Faircloth passed the PBR sports medicine staff’s concussion test prior to Round 1 on Friday

“Everything worked out and I passed it good,” he said. “I felt good all week.”

Faircloth had to hang on extra tightly in the final two seconds of his 79.5-point ride on Apollo’s Smoke.

“When he came back around the left, I sat down on my butt and was thinking of spurring,” Faircloth said. “You can’t sit down and think about it like that. About the time I done it, I knew I was in bad (shape) and I said, ‘Well, I rode him this long, I better finish it.’

“It is just don’t quit until your head hits the ground.”

2. Marchi’s confidence returns in round-winning style

Guilherme Marchi knew he had to get things going this weekend and he did just that by riding Butchers Nightmare for 87 points to win Round 1 and put to rest some of his bull riding woes of the past couple weeks.

“This is what I needed,” Marchi said with sweat still dripping off his face and onto his bull rope. “I drew a good bull today and the last couple of weeks, I had struggled so bad. I couldn’t fix my head and thought I couldn’t do it anymore, but God showed me today how good he is and how you need to be strong and confident.”

He entered the night having ridden just four of his past 16 bulls, and had admitted that he was losing confidence, but on Friday he showed a glimpse of the bull rider that had dominated the BFTS throughout the first half of the season.

The 2008 World Champion pumped his chest and roared to the crowd as he left the arena and awaited his score.

If Marchi can ride again on Saturday night, he may be able to take a significant chunk out of his point deficit behind world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira. He shaved 187 points off Vieira’s lead on Friday night alone, after the 2013 Rookie of the Year bucked off Wacey in 3.39 seconds. The fact that 20 riders made the whistle in Round 1 means Vieira will need to record a significant score in Round 2 to advance to the championship round on Saturday.

Vieira wasn’t alone in his struggles. No. 2 Fabiano Vieira bucked off Mountain Wolf in 2.22 seconds and No. 4 Mike Lee fell just short againstMexican (7.53 seconds). No. 5 Silvano Alves sits in 19th place after deciding to keep his 72.25 points aboard Living the Dream, despite being offered a re-ride.

Therefore, Marchi, who trails Joao Ricardo Vieira by 748.69 points, is in the driver’s seat heading into the final night of the Battle at the Beau.

“We are getting close to the Finals, and I messed up a little bit,” Marchi said. “I hope I am back in the race again. I just need to ride the bull 8 seconds each time. I feel great today.”

3. Palermo happy to return despite buckoff

Robson Palermo’s return to action didn’t go as planned as he was bucked off by Mr. Clark in 2.52 seconds. However, the 30-year-old said the buckoff didn’t ruin his happiness to be back on the BFTS, following six months of rehab after undergoing shoulder surgery in April.

“This is awesome, coming back and seeing all of my friends here,” Palermo said. “I feel really great. Mr. Clark is a really good bull. One jump and he went to the right. I knew he was going to go to the right and I tried to follow him, but he did it too quick and bucked me off.”

Although timing can be an issue when a bull rider returns to competition after such a long layoff, Palermo said it was more his timing in the chute itself that needed some work rather than readjusting to the BFTS bulls.

“My timing inside the bucking chute is too slow,” Palermo added. “It is not that good yet, but outside it is good. I feel like when I got on my rope, I didn’t feel right. It will take time. This is my first bull. Tomorrow, I have another one.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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