Behind the Chutes: Sioux Falls, Day 2

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Here are three things we learned following Round 1 of the First PREMIER Bank PREMIER BankCard Invitational at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center on Friday night.

Lee breaks through with confidence builder

2004 World Champion Mike Lee admits he has never been a boastful bull rider or one that bragged about his confidence. Quite frankly, the 31-year-old said he has struggled with believing in himself for most of his career.

Therefore as Lee struggled in his 3-for-10 slump since beginning February 2-for-2, it was only natural for his confidence to waver.

Lee, who has been an alternate on the BFTS the past two weekends, finally broke through Friday night by riding Strong Heart for 86 points to finish Round 1 in fifth place.

“I ain’t going to lie. It has been freaking real bad,” Lee said. “It was all in my head. It is funny, I am a World Champion, but sometimes I have no confidence.

“I have never been a confident person, even when I was a World Champion. I am just not a boastful person. I always wanted to be and I tried to be, but I quit trying. I just want to be myself and enjoy myself. I need to be confident in what God gave me.”

Lee went back to the basics this week and got on some bulls in the practice pen, where he is most calm and relaxed.

“I like the simple things of bull riding,” he said. “The smell of the bull and the smell of the rosin – not knowing how it is going to go. I love this sport. God is good and he let me do it.”

His ride on Strong Heart was his highest-scored ride since placing fourth in the 15/15 Monster Energy Bucking Battle in New York when he rode King Buck for 88.25 points.

Lee picked up 30 points toward the world standings with his fifth-place finish in the round Friday night and he moves up one spot in the world standings to the 32nd position. He now trails Douglas Duncan, who dropped to 30th in the world standings, by 8.75 points for the last guaranteed spot on the BFTS.

Harris wins Round 1 to gain ground in world title race

J.W. Harris’ riding shirt may not have made it to Sioux Falls, but his riding ability sure did.

The 2014 Rookie of the Year rode Oyster Creek for 87.25 points to win Round 1 and earn 100 points toward the world standings.

“That was just a nice bull, a good one that just jumped up and down,” Harris said. “Once I got back there and looked at him, I remembered seeing him at some rodeos.”

It was a good rebound performance for Harris after he went 0-for-2 in Fresno following four straight Top -10 finishes.

“The way the new points system is, you have to get points every weekend,” he added. “You can’t go weekends without getting them and if you do, you better make up for it the next because they are crucial.”

Friday night was Harris’ second BFTS round win of the season, and the 100 points he earned for the win bump him up one spot in the world standings to No. 7.

He also gained ground on Matt Triplett and trails the world leader by 1,132.5 points. Triplett ended the night with an 84-point ride on Marshall Law, but he gained no points toward his No. 1 ranking.

Apparently what also wasn’t crucial – in terms of riding – was Harris’ trusty blue sponsor shirt.

“My bags didn’t make it,” Harris said with a laugh. “My clothes bag didn’t make the plane in Abilene (Texas). They left it sitting behind the counter. I had my riggin’ bag at least.”

Joao Ricardo Vieira extends riding streak to seven in a row, moves to No. 3 in the world

Joao Ricardo Vieira has been a rider on a mission since entering Iron Cowboy with a chip on his shoulder and looking to prove he was truly an Iron Cowboy.

Vieira rode his seventh bull in a row since the first round of that event by conquering Butcher’s Nightmare for 87 points.

The 2013 Rookie of the Year picked up 60 points toward the world standings and moved from fifth in the world to third after Reese Cates and Kaique Pacheco bucked off their bulls.

Vieira is averaging 83.29 points per ride during his current steak and he sits 865 points back of Triplett.

Rounding out the Top 5 in Round 1 was Cooper Davis (86.5 points on Flip Out), L.J. Jenkins (86.25 points on and Lee.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

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