Behind the chutes: Fresno


  • Oliveira's numbers are becoming gaudier

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Valdiron de Oliveira’s numbers are becoming gaudier by the week.

For the second time this year, he’s ridden nine bulls in a row, and for the second time in two weeks, he outscored 39 other bull riders, winning his third Built Ford Tough Series event of 2011.

After 11 events, he’s attempted more bulls than anyone else (38), has more qualified rides than anyone else (30), and his riding average of 79 percent is over 10 percent better than anyone else’s.

In fact, only twice all season has he bucked off two bulls in a row, and he’s yet to go an event without making the whistle at least once.

Not only does he have the most event wins this year, but he’s tied with Austin Meier for the most Top 5 finishes with six, and leads the way with seven Top 10 finishes. He’s also won more individual rounds (7) than any other rider this year.

“I look like machine because I work all week,” said Valdiron de Oliveira, who goes horseback riding and running every day. His confidence is at an all-time high, regardless of what bull he draws or drafts. “It doesn’t matter. I need to stay on. I need to focus all week.”

In addition to his workouts – he also lifts weights in the gym several times a week – he’s been spending more time watching his rides on TV.

Oliveira said he’s been paying close attention to what he’s been doing right, especially in the past few weeks, and studying the mistakes he’s made, so that he can continue to correct them.

“When you don’t ride your bulls, you need to fix it,” he explained. “Maybe you can ride good, but you don’t ride very, very good. I’ve ridden good now for two weeks, and I’m very happy. I’ve won two weeks now, and I can do that, but I’m surprised.”

This week’s win extended his lead to a season-high 1,690.5 points over Guilherme Marchi, who is now second in the world standings after passing Meier. It was the first time this season Meier went without placing in the average. He’s now 1,757.75 points behind Oliveira.

Oliveira has been so consistent all year that he’s covered nine of his past 10, and 17 of his past 20 bulls.

“I’m focused on winning the world title,” he said.

News & Notes

Like he never left: After going 3-for-4 in his first full event in two months, reigning World Champion Renato Nunes admitted that he felt tired. Nunes missed seven events after breaking a bone in the small finger of his riding hand, but said, “I rode good. I feel good and my confidence is with me now.” He’s competed in only four of 11 events, but now has two Top 5 finishes, including a win in Sacramento, Calif., and is ranked 15th in the world standings. He’s one of only two riders in the Top 15 to have ridden in less than 10 events. Robson Palermo is the other, but he’s competed in twice as many as Nunes. “I have a chance, but I have a long way to go,” said Nunes, of possibly winning back-to-back titles.

Out: The second official cut of the 2011 season will be announced Monday afternoon, but NED CROSS, Brendon Clark, Cody Campbell and Brian Canter all left the arena Saturday night knowing they had failed to join the ranks of the Top 30 in the world standings. Several other riders, including Chance Roberts and Caleb Sanderson, have been competing as alternates, and will not technically be cut from the tour.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi: Brett Hanrahan was scheduled to make his BFTS debut two weeks ago in Chicago, but his flight out of Calgary, Alberta, was canceled, and all that was available was a $3,600 business-class seat. He passed on that opportunity and wound up with a second chance to make a first impression this weekend in Fresno.

Hanrahan was one of five Australian riders in the 40-man field, but he went 0-for-2. Still, no one competing can remember there being five riders from Down Under at the same BFTS event.

The Table Mountain Casino Invitational featured Ben Jones, Pete Farley, David Kennedy, BRENDON CLARK and Hanrahan. There have been several combinations of three and four Aussies at single events, but as Clark said, “It’s been years. … I don’t know if there’s ever been five.”

Back on one: After bucking off Perfect Poison in 2 seconds, AUSTIN MEIER knew he was going to be left with one of the last picks in the bull draft for Round 3. He was the fourth man out in the opening round, and 36 outs later, not only did he miss qualifying for the first short go, but he was sitting in the last spot of draft. Saturday night, he said, “I actually left kind of happy” after 39 other riders selected Holy Roller for him by drafting around the bull.

Meier said he was prepared for a more undesirable matchup, and that Holy Roller gave him the confidence of being able to salvage his weekend by making it back to the Built Ford Tough Championship Round on one bull. As it turned out, he came down early a second time, but his prediction that at least four riders would make it to the championship round on one score held true. Six riders did it on a weekend that decidedly favored the bulls.

Take what you can get: Chris Shivers and Skeeter Kingsolver were the last two riders to qualify for the championship round. Shivers had the ninth pick and with Hank and Braveheart left. When in-arena announcer Brandon Bates asked if one of the other eight riders had picked the bull he wanted, Shivers joked, “They all took the bull I wanted.” He then selected Hank and left Kingsolver with Braveheart. Kingsolver was all smiles as he walked up on the shark cage. “I’m happy,” he said. ”I thought I was going to have I’m a Gangster.” Instead, that infamous animal went to Douglas Duncan, who took him with the sixth pick.

Pre-flight operations: Prior to the start of this week’s event, Ryan McConnel knew he had his hands full after drawing Flight 107 in the opening round. After talking with the bull’s owners (Cosca Brown Bucking Bulls) and a few riders who had seen the bull previously, McConnel said the newcomer was not going to be easy to get out of the chute on.

While it’s easy for a bull to gain the upper hand before the gate opens, McConnel said he wasn’t sure if the situation was ever reversed. But J.W. HART said he thinks a rider might have an advantage if the bull happens to be lying down in the front end, because it can take away the ability to have a powerful first jump out of the chute.

A matter of timing: Shortly after arriving at the arena, ROBSON PALERMO was disappointed to see he was the last man out in Round 3. Palermo, who’s won two BFTS events this year, said he prefers being in the first couple of flights. He likes setting the tone as opposed to needing to beat a certain score, but also prefers to get on his bull shortly after his pre-event routine, as opposed to staying loose through a whole round.

Not good, but not bad: Kody Lostroh, who won the 2009 world title, was less than a half-second from earning his first Top 5 finish of the season. Instead he left Fresno with his third Top 10 finish in six BFTS events. After coming down off Shepherd Hills Trapper at 7.8 seconds in the championship round, he said he made the commitment to stay down in the front, but his feet came up behind him.

— by Keith Ryan Cartwright

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