By: Justin Felisko
May 11, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Who will leave Las Vegas as the No. 1 bull rider in the world and head into the Built Ford Tough Series break ahead of the rest of the pack?
Last Cowboy Standing may lead to seismic shift in standings (5-11-16)
That is the $100,000 question at this weekend’s Last Cowboy Standing.
Defending World Champion J.B. Mauney heads into this weekend’s PBR Major in the driver’s seat, but the two-time World Champion holds a slim 125-point lead on No. 2 Joao Ricardo Vieira – the reigning Last Cowboy Standing champion.
Without getting into the ins and outs of potential round points, in its simplest terms the Last Cowboy Standing champion will walk away with a minimum of 625 points toward the world standings.
The Top 9 riders in the world (Mauney, Vieira, Fabiano Vieira, Paulo Lima, Shane Proctor, Eduardo Aparecido, Derek Kolbaba, Wallace de Oliveira and Ryan Dirteater) are all within 612.5 points of each other and one of them can easily leave Las Vegas atop the world standings.
If one rider were to sweep five rounds of competition and win Last Cowboy Standing, he could earn a maximum, but granted highly unlikely 1,250 world points. Therefore, it is possible for any of the Top 16 riders in the world to leave Las Vegas leading the pack.
All roads still go through Mauney, though.
How will the 29-year-old respond in a format that he has historically struggled (4-for-12) in? That said, earlier this year the talk was that Mauney could not win a 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Mauney ended that conversation by winning three in a row.
The Mooresville, North Carolina, bull rider arrives in Las Vegas fresh off a two-week break following three events in which he contended with injuries to his riding elbow and hip.
He has drawn Gas Pedal (0-0, BFTS) for Round 1 on Friday night. Gas Pedal only has one out on record, which was a 3.47-second buckoff of Dave Mason at the Fresno, California, BlueDEF Tour event last month.
If Mauney can win Last Cowboy Standing, he could open up an 800-point or larger lead before he takes the majority of the summer off.
Then there is Joao Ricardo Vieira. The man who won $188,400 in Las Vegas last spring is back and on the cusp of taking over the world No. 1 ranking for the first time since last September.
Vieira has drawn Mr. Clark (13-3, BFTS). Silvano Alves recently rode Mr. Clark in February in Sacramento, California, during the bull’s last BFTS out.
Speaking of Alves, what does the three-time World Champion do in Las Vegas?
Alves went 1-for-2 at the Uvalde, Texas, BlueDEF Tour event and is second behind Vieira for the most qualified rides at Last Cowboy Standing formatted events among active riders. The 28-year-old has won Last Cowboy Standing twice and is a big fan of the format that rewards riders for making the 8-second mark more than anything else.
A record-setting third Last Cowboy Standing title could move give Alves more world points than the 549.16 points he has already this season. Alves could jump from 25th to 17th in the standings.
Alves faces Uh Oh (1-0, BFTS) Friday night. Oliveira made it to the 5.98-second mark on Uh Oh in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Unlike standard BFTS events, Last Cowboy Standing takes the Top 40 riders in the world standings.
There are only four Top 40 riders unable to compete in Las Vegas. No. 20 Ben Jones (shoulder surgery), No. 21 Stetson Lawrence (left groin) No. 36 J.W. Harris (elbow surgery) and No. 38 Justin Paton (concussion) are out.
Lawrence said this week that his left groin is still sore, as well as bruised, after injuring it in Des Moines three weeks ago.
The injuries open up an opportunity for Reese Cates, Winston Lopez, Emilio Resende and Douglas Duncan to compete at the Las Vegas Village as alternates.
Cates has been trying to hang on to a BFTS spot the last five events and will take on Smoke Wagon (4-1, BFTS). Smoke Wagon hasn’t bucked on the BFTS since last October and at a PBR event since January. Nevada Newman rode Smoke Wagon for 87.5 points at a Touring Pro Division event in Pueblo, Colorado.
Lopez hasn’t compete on the BFTS since Phoenix, after making his debut at the last PBR Major – Iron Cowboy. The 21-year-old has a Round 1 date with Kylie (5-0, BFTS).
“I just want to be there,” Lopez said Saturday in Uvalde, Texas. “Just being here with all of these top dogs feels like more of a blessing. I am here and I want to be at that caliber. I respect them and I just want them to realize I want to be somebody up there. I want to stay.”
Resende is returning to the BFTS for the first time since being cut from the tour in January. The 29-year-old has only competed in eight BFTS events following three straight seasons in which he qualified for the Built Ford Tough World Finals.
He will look for 8 seconds aboard Long Hair (1-0, BFTS).
Fabiano Vieira will look to build off his 3-for-3 victory in Uvalde this past weekend when he takes on Wolf Cry (2-0, BFTS). Wolf Cry made his debut in Billings, Montana, and bucked off Stormy Wing (3.97 seconds) and Mike Lee (2.22 seconds).
Jared Allen’s Air Time is the $50,000 Bounty Bull in Round 3. If the event is over before three rounds, the Last Cowboy Standing champion will attempt Air Time in a bonus round.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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