PUEBLO, Colo. – If you were not paying attention, you would have easily missed the moment. It was in Hidalgo, Texas, on the first night of competition of the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event earlier this month.
Three-time World Champion Silvano Alves was hanging out on the back of the bucking chutes early in the evening. His turn to ride was not until the last section of the night, so he hung around fellow Brazilians Kaique Pacheco, Fabiano Veira and Rubens Barbosa.
During a section break, with the sounds of Pitbull filling the arena, the usually stoic Alves did something out of the ordinary.
He broke out a little dance.
It didn’t last long, but the group of Built Ford Tough Series regulars burst out laughing before the next section of riders started up again.
For Alves, who is coming off a season that was among the worst of his career, that light-heartedness served as another sign that the 29-year-old had finally moved past what was the most mentally challenging season of his career.
“I feel good and I was very happy to ride again,” Alves said. “I feel good. My body is good and I’m happy to have my fans supporting me.”
Alves went 2-for-3 in Hidalgo, his first action of the 2017 season, and finished in ninth place. He also competed at the Southaven, Mississippi, Velocity Tour event, but was bucked off in his only attempt.
Though it wasn’t a run for the ages, the early season work was important for Alves as he prepared for the real test when the BFTS returns in New York for the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden Jan. 6-8.
It was an opportunity to get on some bulls in a low-pressure situation and work out some kinks, a short tune-up to make sure Alves would enter the 2017 season ready to roll. Aside from travelling to the two Velocity Tour events, Alves kept a low profile hanging out with his friends on his ranch in Texas, riding horses and roping.
“I just ride my horse and rope with my family and my friends,” Alves said.
The relaxed demeanor was a far cry from the quiet frustration he carried through most of the 2016 season. Though he suffered no major injuries, Alves was still carrying the mental scar of the broken hip he suffered in 2015.
It was the first major injury of his bull riding career, and though he physically healed, Alves rode with a nervousness that led to multiple buckoffs and a free fall in the world standings.
It was hard to determine what exactly was bothering Alves, and he’d likely never admit to anything more than a bad effort of his part, but it was clear that the World Champion no longer looked like himself.
That was until the second half of the season.
Something clicked within Alves and suddenly he was riding bulls left and right. Alves went 19-for-33 in the second half of the season (57.58%) and picked up his first event win of the season in Eugene, Oregon. He also finished strong, going 6-for-10 in his last 10 outs of the season, including a 3-for-6 performance at the Built Ford Tough World Finals that kept him in contention for the event win through most of the week.
It was an encouraging sign from a man that still has the potential to become the first four-time World Champion in PBR history. The first step in that journey will take place in New York where, last season, a scary encounter with Cochise was a sign of things to come for Alves.
“I remember a little bit of that ride,” Alves recalled. “Big jump, went left, two spins, I’m done.”
Cochise tossed Alves in 5.09 seconds and brought his feet down hard on Alves’ head. Thankfully, Alves’ helmet took the brunt of the hit, cracking it down the middle and sparing him what could have been a devastating injury.
Alves rode shortly after in Oklahoma City, but it was a close call that stuck with him. Alves doesn’t think that much of it anymore, and the way he closed out the season showed that perhaps he has fully returned.
For his part, he said he is ready to return.
“It passed, I rode the next day,” Alves said. “But it’s good to go back to Madison Square Garden.”
Alves will enter 2017 as an underdog, which is something few would have ever imagined saying about the three-time World Champion, but he’s someone nobody in the PBR should sleep on.
“I didn’t finish high in the World Championship (race), but I feel good,” Alves said. “I was very happy because I started to ride good again.”
© 2018 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.