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Behind the Chutes: Round 1 Notes

Stormy Wing won Round 1 in Oakland, California.

OAKLAND, Calif. – Here are three things we learned from Round 1 of this weekend’s Kawasaki Strong Battle at the Bay.

1. Vacation pays off for Wing

Sometimes all a bull rider needs is a mental break, and that seems to be the case for Stormy Wing after the Dalhart, Texas, bull rider spent the week hanging out in California with a group of friends.

The mini-vacation appeared to pay off as Wing covered Game Over for 87.75 points to win Round 1 Friday night at Oracle Arena.

Wing and buddy Chase Outlaw headed out from Laughlin, Nevada, last week and drove to California to spend this week relaxing with friends and taking it easy on the beach. Of course, the subject of bull riding came up during their mini-break away from the arena.

“Chase and I were talking the other day, and he said, ‘You can go from champ to chump real fast and chump to champ, either way.’”

It has been a battle for Wing during the second half of the season. Wing was 0-for-10 prior to his 85.25-point ride on Alright Alright Alright in Laughlin last week. After riding Game Over on Friday night he now has rides in consecutive weekends for the first time since the beginning of March.

“I ain’t felt this way in a long time,” Wing said. “It just takes that one. It just takes staying mentally sound through all of that. I am still trying to figure it out.”

2. World leaders take a repeat from Laughlin

Friday night in Oakland was almost a repeat of Round 1 from last weekend’s Built Ford Tough Series event in Laughlin, Nevada. World leader Joao Ricardo Vieira, No. 2 Fabiano Vieira and No. 5 Silvano Alvesall turned down re-rides for the second consecutive week.

Alves was the first to make the 8-second mark when he earned 58.25 points and a re-ride. He quickly turned down the option before Fabiano Vieria rode War Party for 80.25 points and Joao Ricardo Vieira was given 75.25 points for 8-seconds of work aboard White Out.

Both Vieiras turned down their respective re-ride options.

Last week, the strategy didn’t go as planned for Fabiano Vieira, as he failed to qualify for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, while Alves and Joao Ricardo Vieira both bucked off in the championship round.

It will be interesting to see how things shape up for the world leaders on Saturday night after 11 qualified rides on Friday. Fabiano Vieira is currently eighth in the event average, Joao Ricardo Vieira is 10th and Alves sits in 11th. All three will likely need to ride their Round 2 bulls if they hope to advance to the second round.

Joao Ricardo Vieira unofficially remains in the top spot of the world standings, but he did see his lead on Fabiano Vieira shrink to 64.38 points.

No. 3 rider Mike Lee was bucked off by California Kid in six seconds and No. 4 Guilherme Marchi’s slump continued when he lasted only 3.47 seconds on Loco Lizard in the second matchup between the two.

3. Malone ends rideless drought

It may have taken him 17 attempts in eight BFTS events, but Jason Malonefinally recorded his first ride of the 2014 season after earning 85.75 points on Sanchez.

“You start bucking off that many in a row and it becomes a habit and, like anything else, it is hard to break,” Malone said. “Bull riders have an 8-second clock in their head and it felt like it wasn’t even there. It wasn’t just at these deals, lately I haven’t been stepping up and getting the job done really anywhere; but it felt good to ride one.”

It is the 30-year-old’s first ride on the BFTS since April 2013 in Nampa, Idaho, when he covered Blistering Black for 85.5 points.

Malone began the night 40th in the standings and is in desperate need to get points if he hopes to qualify for his first career Built Ford Tough World Finals.

“It is definitely nice to get points,” Malone said. “All the points that I have gotten all year were quarter points.”

However, Malone said he hasn’t put much thought or worry into the race for qualifying. He is just happy to be riding bulls at this point in his career.

“When I was younger it did (get to me), now not so much,” he said. “Sure, I always wanted to make the Finals multiple times every year throughout my career. Now that I am older and I still get to ride bulls, if I am not here I am going to be at a bull riding somewhere else.

“I am not downplaying the magnitude though. This is where every bull rider wants to be.”

INJURY UPDATES (9-27-2014)

J.W. Harris ended up not traveling to Oakland and doctored out of the event due to injuries (costochondral sprain/lower back) that he sustained in Springfield, Missouri, and aggravated in Laughlin, Nevada, last week.

Other riders that were out of competition included Markus Mariluch (torn right biceps), Kasey Hayes (fractured jaw), Sean Willingham (hip dislocation), Robson Palermo (right shoulder surgery), Guytin Tsosie(broken right leg) and Shane Proctor (left shoulder surgery).

Ty Pozzobon was bucked off by Jose Quervo in 6.2 seconds in his first bull riding action since injuring his right ACL and LCL at the Calgary Stampede.

Guilherme Marchi limped his way out of the arena after landing on his sprained right knee (PCL) after attempting to ride Loco Lizard.

Fabiano Vieira (unstable right shoulder), Ryan Dirteater (unstable left knee), Renato Nunes (unstable right shoulder) Zane Lambert (sprained left knee), Billy Robinson (sports hernia) also all competed injured.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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