PUEBLO, Colo. - Winning a world title is simple.
Just ride more bulls than anyone else.
"There's no other strategy other than to stay on," said PBR statistician Slade Long.
Accordingly, Silvano Alves should be the No. 1 contender to win this year's title, even though he's in third place in the world standings and trails leader Valdiron de Oliveira by 788.25 points.
'There's no other strategy other than to
"At the beginning of the year I thought it would be extremely surprising to me if Alves didn't win it again," said Long, "and I thought that Oliveira was the only guy with a shot to catch him."
Nineteen events into the season, Alves has ridden two more bulls than Oliveira, and his average is slightly more than 2 percent off Oliveira's first-half pace.
Valdiron de Oliveira sits in the No. 1 position going into the summer break.
There's a less than a two-day event's worth of points between
"I think there's a very negligible difference between Alves and Oliveira," Long said. "These two are a great comparison, because they both stay on, that's the deal.
"Beyond the stats, I see (Oliveira) as being a little stronger
than Alves. I see Alves as being a better rider. Maybe they get it
done a little bit different way, but essentially they're at the top
of the standings for the same reason - they just stay on more
"To this point," he continued, "Oliveira has had better luck at the right times."
Oliveira has collected a few more short-round scores and round wins, which is what has separated him from Alves and the others.
Since arriving in the U.S. two years ago, Alves has consistently ridden between 65 and 67 percent of his bulls.
Long noted that a number of riders, including Oliveira, Guilherme Marchi and J.B. Mauney, are riding with injuries instead of sitting out.
Mr. Consistent: Silvano Alves just seems to ride more bulls than anyone else.
"It seems like they're killing themselves just to keep up with
him," Long said. "He's not going to open the door for them."
L.J. Jenkins is having a career year.
His 55.74 percent average is nearly 10 percent higher than his career average, and he's recorded eight consecutive Top 10 finishes, seven of which were in the Top 5, including a Built Ford Tough Series win in Kansas City, Mo.
Long said that outside of the PBR, Jenkins has ridden better than anyone else.
"He's up there until you get to this level of bulls," Long said.
Jenkins has only bucked off three bulls in the past three events, but those bulls were Palm Springs, Sue and Stanley Fat Max. Long said each of them were potential round-wins, and added that Jenkins can ill afford to miss those opportunities and still beat out Alves or Oliveira in October.
Dark horse: L.J. Jenkins has poured it on in the past two months, and now sits at second in the world.
An aging Marchi, who is coming off two injury-plagued seasons,
has been at 60 percent against top-tier bulls.
The Top 500 bulls of all-time are considered top-tier, and according to Long, nobody else rides that caliber of bull at 60 percent.
By comparison, Renato Nunes rode Bucking Machine in Idaho and again in Pueblo, Colo. His two scores were 92 and 90 points. Bucking Machine is ranked 491st among the 500 top-tier bulls.
No rider has won the world title and covered less than 40 percent of the top-tier bulls he faced in the same season. In 2008, Marchi covered in excess of 72 of his bulls and rode a staggering 21 of 28 top-tier bulls - something no one else has accomplished.
Long said if Marchi manages to maintain that statistic after the summer break, he'll push Alves and Oliveira in ways neither expected.
"Marchi can ride the same as Alves is doing," Long said, "but is he going to stay in one piece long enough? Is he getting too old? Those are the only questions you have with him."
Like Marchi a year ago, Mauney is struggling with injuries.
His success in riding with his right hand surprised Long, who noted that even when Mauney covered three bulls with his off-hand, he still got beat up dismounting.
Mauney has always had a penchant for big moments, but he still surprised observers when two of the three bulls he covered came in the 15/15 Bucking Battle against championship-round-caliber bulls.
"If he would have been healthy all year, Mauney is always a threat," said Long, who added that Mauney's left hand needs to be 100 percent when the season resumes for the 25-year-old to have any chance of catching the top contenders.
"His percentage is high enough to compete with those guys, and he's kind of a giant-killer."
'His percentage is high enough to compete
with those guys, and he's kind of a giant-killer.'
Outside of the Top 5, Long sees only Fabiano Vieira has a possible contender.
Even then, he'll have a hard time making up the six events he missed at the start of the season. He's currently ranked ninth in the world and trails Oliveira by a seemingly insurmountable 3,166.25 points.
As for Alves, last year he covered 11 more bulls than any other rider on the BFTS.
He's already ridden two more than Oliveira and seven more than Jenkins. Long thinks that approach will work again in 2012 despite Alves' track record of declining re-ride opportunities.
"Frankly, there are a bunch of guys who put their hands in a bull rope that are never going to touch that," Long said. "Oliveira has a chance, but he needs that one extra bull."
Long is sticking with his pre-season prediction of Alves becoming the first rider in PBR history to win back-to-back world titles. "Statistically, I think he's going to be hard to beat," Long said, "just because he rides so many."
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