By: Justin Felisko
LAS VEGAS – Three-time World Champion Silvano Alves still remembers how oddly quiet things were at times during the Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, last June inside the South Point Casino Hotel & Spa.
Las Vegas is one of Alves’s favorite cities in the world. There is something special in the air whenever he steps foot off an airplane inside McCarran International Airport and heads down to The Strip.
However, that electricity was missing last June when Alves headed to the South Point Hotel Arena for the Monster Energy Team Challenge.
Yes, there was loud music, high-level competition, and a massive, brightly lit soundstage.
But there was still an eerie silence.
The missing link?
The fans. The people.
No one was buzzing about the South Point Arena or cheering passionately following an 8-second qualified ride.
Instead, the Monster Energy Team Challenge was closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The made-for-television product lacked the most important thing Alves cherishes about Vegas – the people.
“It is exciting to go back to Vegas,” Alves said last weekend following a seventh-place finish at the Stockyards Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas. “Last year, it was just the team deal, and it was not the same without the fans. It was created for TV. I heard nothing. No crowd. It was like a rank practice pen. I am very excited to go back this week.
“I love this city. I have had a lot of good luck there.”
The PBR returns to Las Vegas with fans in attendance for the first time since the 2019 PBR World Finals this weekend with the PBR Las Vegas Invitational (Friday and Saturday) and the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo (Sunday) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Alves may have never competed at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, which hosted the PBR World Finals from 1994-98, but he is no stranger to Vegas success. He is 44-for-70 (62.86%) on the premier series in Las Vegas, including a 2013 Last Cowboy Standing victory and a 2014 World Finals win.
He went 0-for-8 last year at the Monster Energy Team Challenge.
Alves is ranked 10th in the world standings heading into his Round 1 matchup against Theodore (1-1, UTB) on Friday night.
Fans can watch all the action Friday live on CBS Sports Network and RidePass at 10 p.m. ET.
Alves has yet to finish inside the Top 10 of the world standings since he left the Thomas & Mack Center on October 26, 2014, with his third PBR gold buckle. In the last three years, Alves has finished no higher than 20th in the PBR world standings as injuries began to take a toll on the future Ring of Honor inductee.
“I am very excited to be back in the Top 10,” Alves said. “I hope God helps me ride well like that, and I stay in the Top 10. It’s been three years since I was in the top. This year I started at the top, and I am keeping at the top. I am really happy. I am riding really well. Sometimes there is bad luck with the draw, but that happens for every bull rider.”
In 2014, Alves ended the first half of the premier series with a fourth-place finish at Last Cowboy Standing in Las Vegas and was fourth in the world standings at the summer break.
He would eventually need to ride 13 consecutive bulls to end the season and win his third world title.
The 33-year-old is still not riding as he did in his gold-buckle prime, but Alves did say he was thinking about his 2014 comeback earlier this year.
“I think about this a month ago,” Alves said. “I think going into Billings (in 2014), I was almost outside the Top 10 [Alves was ninth]. I then finished second, I think, to get into the Top 5. Then I went to Brazil and rode at a couple PBR Brazil there and did good. This clicked in my head that maybe this year is the same as 2014.”
Alves is only 13-for-43 (30.23%) this season, but he still appears on track for his best season since an 11th-place finish in 2017.
Historically, Alves and his family would go back to Brazil for the summer break, but this year he plans on staying in Texas as his kids have soccer games and other activities scheduled.
Alves will compete at a few events, but otherwise, he wants to stay healthy and focused for a strong second half.
“I am happy and will go to a couple big events,” Alves said. “I then will be ready for the second half.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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