There may be just seven weeks until the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) crown their 2013 World Champions but expect plenty of excitement and drama as the regular season wraps up and the PBR World Finals kick off October 23, 2013 in Las Vegas. In a season that has already seen five lead changes for the championship amongst the riders, mathematically just about everyone still has a shot at taking home the $1 million bonus along with the other goodies given each year to the World Champion.
Of course, the odds favor those guys already at the top. Two-time and reigning World Champion Silvano Alves has worked his way to the top of the standings once again, opening a bit of distance between himself and the pack with a third event win in Oakland September 6-7. After being the only cowboy to cover all three bulls on the weekend, Alves answered the challenge from J.B. Mauney who had won two of the three previous events since the PBR's Built Ford Tough Series returned from its annual summer hiatus.
Mauney, 26, and Alves, 25, are certainly two of the PBR's most talented riders and they couldn't be more different in both style and approach to the title chases.
Mauney is a home run hitter, a cowboy who will pick the rankest bulls available in the Championship Rounds at events, always hoping to earn those 90 point scores. He recently conquered 2011 World Champion Bull Bushwacker to win the event in Tulsa, earning a season high 95.25 points and stopping the bull's run at a record 42 straight buck-offs. Mauney had been eight of those 42 prior to getting the ride.
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“Everything’s going great right now. When you feel good, you ride good,” he told PBR.com at the time. “I’m picking the way J.B. picks [big picks in big moments].”
That's the truth. The cowboy is also the only guy to cover Asteroid, last year's World Champion Bull. He's won 19 events in his career, including the 2009 PBR World Finals where he set a record as the only cowboy to cover all eight bulls. He has 47 rides over 90 points. He is electric, emotional, passionate. And there are definitely ups-and-downs.
On the other side, Alves is everything Mauney is not. Taking a businessman approach to the sport, Alves rarely shows emotion following a ride. Any score is points on the board and he never accepts offered re-rides when bulls do not perform, sometimes to the chagrin of commentators and fans alike.
But it's hard to argue with his results. The PBR's only back-to-back champion, Alves has won over $3.5 million in just under four years in the PBR. He only has eight 90 point rides but has won 11 events and rides better than 65% of his bulls, an astounding figure given the caliber of bulls bucking in the PBR today.
"I'm just happy to cover all three of my bulls," Alves told PBR.com following his win in Oakland. "Every bull I rode I made points. That's my strategy. I don't care about winning the round or making 90 points."
That being said, Alves has earned three 90's this season alone including a memorable turn aboard Smackdown at the Last Cowboy Standing in Las Vegas in May. In contrast, Mauney only has two this season. In addition, Alves' percentage against 45 plus point bulls has risen to 20%, up from 16% for his career, during the 2013 season while Mauney's has dropped to 9% from his career average of nearly 34%, the best in the sport.
What all that will mean as the season wraps up with five events in a row--Springfield, Missouri; Biloxi, Mississippi; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Hollywood, Florida--is anybody's guess. Mauney is currently fourth, about 2,300 points behind Alves with over 10,000 points still to be won at the five regular season events and the World Finals.
With the momentum swinging back and forth between the two men, it looks like it might become a two-cowboy race but there are plenty of other riders in the mix who are close enough in the points to make it interesting. Rookie Joao Ricardo Vieira sits second, just 1,721 points back, while Marco Eguchi is third. Cody Nance, 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, PRCA World Champion Shane Proctor, Eduardo Aparecido, Chase Outlaw and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee round out the top 10. Should any of them get on a hot streak, they could easily gobble up the points to the top of the standings.
While the two-man race may or may not materialize for the riders, on the bulls' side, it has been a two-bull race for two years. Bushwacker won in 2011 but lost the title by the smallest of margins a year ago. He is leading this season, despite being ridden for the first time in several years, and has won eight Pabst Bull Ribbon awards as the highest marked bull at an event.
By contrast, his rival and 2012 World Champion Bull Asteroid has just one Pabst Bull Ribbon award, earned at Thackerville, Oklahoma a couple weeks ago. But, he is unridden this season.
Another contender has to be Smackdown, who has earned a pair of Pabst Blue Ribbon awards including one at Oakland. He has contributed to four 90 point rides this season including Alves' win at the Last Cowboy Standing and two event wins for Joao Ricardo Vieira. Also in the mix could be Lightmaker's Rango, Meat Hook, Shepherd Hills Tested and Teflon Tom.
The World Champion bull contenders are chosen prior to the World Finals; once there, their two scores at that event determine the championship.
Only the top 35 riders will compete in Vegas at the World Finals to be held October 23-27, 2013. Riders will compete in five long rounds and a Championship Round to determine the World Champion, Rookie of the Year and World Finals Champion. All rounds are held at the Thomas & Mack.