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BEHIND THE CHUTES: Fresno, Day 1

FRESNO, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of the Fresno Invitational at the Save Mart Center.

Triplett breaks out of slump

Matt Triplett busted out of his season-high buckoff streak by riding The Kid for 85.5 points on Saturday night to conclude Round 1 in third place.

The world leader had been previously bucked off during his past seven outs on the BFTS and his last qualified ride came in St. Louis when he rode Easy Money for 86.25 points.

“That is what comes with every sport,” Triplett said. “You are going to have your downs. It is the champions that can get back up on that hill and keep climbing, keep working, try harder and do whatever it takes to be better. Every athlete has to rise up from it.”

Triplett is the first rider to make the 8-second mark on The Kid in the bull’s eight professional outs.

“He bucks really hard and he hasn’t been rode that far,” Triplett said. “He kind of got lost a little bit and ran out, but he is really a good bull and was fun.”

The 23-year-old added that he spent the past week hanging out with fellow BFTS rider Douglas Duncan to try and refocus.

“I just haven’t put the work in like I needed to these last couple of weeks, and I went and hung out with my good buddy Douglas. Whenever I need to get my stuff fixed, that is who I hang out with.”

The third-place round finish helped him extend his lead over Silvano Alves to 730 points in the world standings thanks to the 50 points he earned.

Alves rode Hawaiian High Tide for 79.25 points, which tied him for 14th in Round 1 with Joao Ricardo Vieira.

Triplett called his first low point of the season a learning experience and one that he is happy to leave in the past.

“It was a learning moment,” he concluded. “Being able to ride everything and then you get humbled real fast. That is how bull riding always is. Getting out of that slump feels good.”

Eguchi not going down without a fight

Marco Eguchi understands his back is against the wall and that he is on the verge of being cut from the Built Ford Tough Series, but the 25-year-old has every intention of doing all he can to try and avoid that fate.

Eguchi, who began the weekend 177.5 points out of the Top 30 with Fresno being his final guaranteed event on tour, kicked off his weekend with an 80.25-point ride on Ranger.

The ride was only good enough for 13th in the round – there were a total of 17 qualified rides – and Eguchi was unable to earn any round points.

Regardless, Eguchi knows he can earn potentially enough points to crack the Top 30 of the world standings if he can finish in the Top-3 of the event average.

He finished the 2014 season 15th in the world standings.

“This week is going to be my better week,” Eguchi said. “I will do everything I can. I still have plenty of fight left.”

Eguchi competed at last weekend’s BlueDEF Velocity Tour event in Portland, Oregon, to test out his injured riding elbow before returning to the BFTS since last competing on tour in St. Louis.

On Saturday, he said the elbow was feeling much better.

“Yes sir, it feels good now,” Eguchi said.

Nance tests out new head gear

A week after getting head-butted by Diesel during the Final 4 Shoot Out Round at THE AMERICAN, Cody Nance took to heart the concerns of his wife, Jordan, and started wearing his bull riding helmet once again.

Nance broke out his purple and green helmet after riding without any protection last week in Arlington, Texas, and he was able to ride Orange Crush for 83.5 points to tie with Tanner Byrne for seventh in the round.

“I always liked wearing a mask or nothing period pretty much,” Nance said. “Last week after the event, my wife said that she would feel better if I wore it. She never told me to or that I need to. I asked her, ‘Do you want me to?’ She said, ‘I would feel better about it.’ I said, ‘OK, that is all I needed to know.’”

Nance also tried out a protective cap created by SkullTec. The goal of the product is to help reduce the impact blows to the head caused in contact sports.

The skull cap is made out of a spandex and nylon blend that contains a patented-gel. Nance was able to slide the cap on underneath his helmet and was very pleased with the product.

“I totally believe in it,” Nance said. “This is a new product that a bunch of football players have been wearing. It is a little cap to put on under your helmet. It is created to absorb more of the percent of an impact and help prevent concussions.”

Injury updates

Claudio Crisostomo returned from his broken left clavicle to win Round 1 with an 86.5-point effort aboard El Capitan.

According to Crisostomo, it was only the second bull he has been on since taking the past four months off following the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals to let the injury heal.

“It feels good,” Crisostomo said with the help of Eguchi translating. “I feel great. Everybody come to make the points, and I made some points tonight.”

He also didn’t show any hesitation or fear inside the bucking chute like he did last season when he broke his clavicle during the first half of the season.

Crisostomo is guaranteed eight events to try and crack the Top 35 of the world standings due to his 27th place finish in the 2014 world standings.

Crisostomo helped his cause by winning the round, which gives him 100 points toward the world standings and already puts him tied for 48th in the world.

Aaron Roy returned to the BFTS for the first time since fracturing his back at the 2013 Calgary Stampede nearly 20 months ago.

His return didn’t go as well as he hoped, and he was bucked off by California Kid in 4.78 seconds.

The 27-year-old said he was still happy to be back at a BFTS event and even felt some of the rookie butterflies when he first walked into the arena on Saturday afternoon.

“It is pretty cool just to nod my head today,” Roy said. “It actually went a lot better than I thought, being back at this level. I thought I had him rode, but he just kind of dropped me in there. I am happy to get away clean and it feels great to be back.”

Rookie Kaique Pacheco sustained a concussion when he was thrown hard to the ground by Hot Blooded in 4.83 seconds during Round 1. According to Dr. Tandy Freeman, Pacheco is questionable for Round 2.

Nine riders were competing injured during Round 1: Triplett (sprained right elbow), L.J. Jenkins (unstable right shoulder), Valdiron de Oliveira (sprained right ankle), J.B. Mauney (bruised left groin/pelvis), Sean Willingham (right leg strain), Nance (broken right forearm), Reese Cates (bruised left shoulder), Duncan (right shoulder contusion), Ryan Dirteater (left groin strain).

Six riders remain out of competition because of injury: Emilio Resende (multi-ligament knee reconstruction),  Ty Pozzobon (concussion), Markus Mariluch (bicep tear), Josh Faircloth (left ankle fracture), Billy Robinson (left PCL tear) and Chase Outlaw (right shoulder dislocation/torn rotator cuff).

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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