By: Justin Felisko August 09, 2014@ 06:00:00 PM
PUEBLO, Colo. — With less than a week until the Built Ford Tough Series resumes in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the summer break is close to complete.
Since the end of Last Cowboy Standing, many of the PBR’s top riders have taken different approaches toward the break away from the organization’s top circuit. Some riders have hit the ground running, attending Touring Pro Division events across the United States, Canada, Brazil and Australia, while others have used the three months to relax the mind and heal the body.
Riders are able to carry-over 25 percent of the points earned at TPD events to the world standings and the summer break has allowed some riders to make an early push up the leaderboard before the 2014 stretch run begins.
Here is a look at how the world standings have shifted some since Last Cowboy Standing:
Marchi remains on top, challengers closing in:
Guilherme Marchi has been able to maintain his lead atop the world standings, but he left the door open for riders to gain ground on his lead for the World Championship after sitting out the majority of the summer to rehab his PCL injury in his right knee.
Marchi concluded the 2014 Built Ford Tough Series first half by winning Last Cowboy Standing for the first time in his career. He entered the summer break with a 576.8-point lead on No. 2 Fabiano Vieira and 834.25-point lead over No. 3 Joao Ricardo Vieira. They were the only two riders within 1,000 points of Marchi, and Silvano Alves (-1,541.560) was the remaining rider trailing by less than 2,500 points.
Three months off for Marchi has helped heal his leg – he also attended the 2014 ESPYS in Los Angeles – but it also has tightened the world title race. As of this weekend, seven riders are within 2,500 points of the 32-year-old and Fabiano Vieria (-296.94), Joao Ricardo Vieira (-367.31) and Alves are all within 1,000.
At the beginning of the break Marchi also led Valdiron de Oliveira, who was then ranked ninth in the world standings, by 3,024.06 points. In comparison, six more riders are now within 3,000 points or less of Marchi as Eduardo Aparecido is ranked 15th in the world and sits 2,945.94 points out of the top spot. There were eight riders within 3,000 points of the world leader Alves last year at the start of the second half.
Marchi understands everyone will be coming for him.
“I know everybody wants to be champion,” Marchi said earlier this summer. “I want to win a title, too, but it is not easy.”
Lee running on full steam, slashes Marchi’s lead in half
2004 World Champion Mike Lee had one of the strongest summers when it comes to BFTS riders who hit the ground running. Lee has cut Marchi’s lead in half from the end of Last Cowboy Standing and he is within 1,078.88 points of Marchi after beginning the summer 2,549.370 points back of the top dog.
Lee has earned one-third of his 6,178.93 points in the standings from TPD events since the beginning of the 2014 season. Just this summer alone he earned an additional 1,493.12 points by entering, double-entering and even triple-entering TPD events. If there was an open spot in a draw this summer, it was more than likely going to be filled by the 31-year-old.
One of Lee’s best performances during the BFTS break came when he went 6-for-6 to claim first, second and third at the Lancaster, California, Touring Pro Division event. It was his fourth TPD win of the summer.
“I’ve never done that before,” Lee said. “All of my bulls were really good and they all bucked. I think I knew it was possible, but sometimes you make little mistakes and it messes one bull up. That is a good reason to enter more than once, because if you mess up once, you can fix it again. Sometimes it doesn’t take very long to fix.”
Hayes & Gay jump into Top 10
Kasey Hayes and Gage Gay used strong summer showings to move up six and seven spots respectively in the world standings.
Hayes was 15th in the world standings after Last Cowboy Standing and used an impressive start with wins in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Carson, California, to gain 738.75 carry-over points and crack the Top 10. In Bismarck, Hayes continued to showcase his ability to conquer rank bulls, riding Fire & Smoke for 94 points. Some now wonder if he may have what it takes to ride Bushwacker in the second half.
A rough wreck at the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo did appear to slow Hayes’ momentum some, but he has since returned from the concussion.
Gay has been on a tear of late trying to hold off Tanner Byrne, who has since switched to an American-made Brazilian bull rope, in the race for the rookie of the year title. The 20-year-old has maintained his grip on the rookie race, and has moved into the Top 10 with 840.75 points at TPD events, including wins in Tupelo, Mississippi, and Pendleton, Oregon, over the past three months after ending the first half 17th in the world.
A little Stetson in his step
Stetson Lawrence was right on the hips of Lee when it came to accumulating major points in the standings. After only having 656.87 points and being ranked 50th in the world in the middle of May, the 25-year-old went on to win a summer-best five TPD events and more than doubled his point totals to put himself 34th in the world standings and in prime real estate to compete in Tulsa.
Lawrence will look to record his first ride on the BFTS this year after going 0-for-5 in three previous events in the first half.
Outlaw recovers physically and in points
Chase Outlaw missed the final five BFTS events of the first half because of a strained right groin and was ranked 30th in the world following Last Cowboy Standing. He eventually returned to action to win the Ty Pozzobon Invitational in Merritt, Canada, with a 91-point ride on Team Paige. It would be the first of four consecutive wins at PBR Canada events. The 22-year-old also notched a win at the Monroe, Louisiana, TPD event last month.
He has risen to 24th in the standings after earning a total of 991.5 carry-over points during the three-month break.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.