PUEBLO, Colo. – With one day remaining until the Built Ford Tough Series resumes in Tulsa, Oklahoma, PBR.com will take a look at the Top 5 riders in the world standings before the stretch run to the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals officially begins.
Today, we look at world leader Eduardo Aparecido.
FIRST HALF RECAP: Aparecido has shown glimpses of World Champion potential previously in his career, but he had never put it all together like he has in 2017.
Aparecido is the only rider with three event wins this season – including a career-defining victory at Iron Cowboy – and he heads into the second half leading the PBR with a 52-percent riding average, which is also 4.65 points better than his career average (47.35 percent).
The 27-year-old is 26-for-50 and well on his way to crushing his previous career-high of 41 qualified rides (2016).
Not only does Aparecido have the best riding percentage, and second-most rides on the BFTS, but he is also averaging 86.24 points per ride and has won five rounds.
Aparecido hasn’t just used event wins to carry him this season. The fifth-year pro has a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory (Sacramento, California) and six Top-5 finishes as well.
BEST FIRST HALF PERFORMANCE:
Aparecido asserted himself as a World Champion contender by winning back-to-back weeks in February.
A week after winning the Kansas City, Missouri, event, Aparecido won the biggest event of his career by winning the Iron Cowboy crown.
Aparecido rode Catfish John for 89 points to cap off a 4-for-4 performance at Iron Cowboy and earn 955 points toward the world standings. Earlier in the event, Aparecido rode Oscar P (85 points), Jack Shot (90.5 points) and Big Black Cat (88.75 points).
Combined with the 540 points he earned a week earlier for winning the Kansas City, Missouri, event title, Aparecido was able to take over the world No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career.
The last rider to win back-to-back events, when one of them was a PBR Major?
2016 World Champion Cooper Davis.
FIRST HALF TOP RIDE: 91.25 points on Speed Demon (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
SUMMER OF REST: Unlike the rest of the Top 10 riders in the world standings, Aparecido essentially took the summer off.
Aparecido returned home to Brazil and competed in one event – going 1-for-2 at the Frutal PBR Brazil event – where he fainted and had a bull step on his chest. Aparecido confirmed to PBR.com it was a minor injury.
Following that event, Aparecido opted to take the rest of the summer off in preparation for his first pursuit of a world title.
Aparecido also spent a lot of time this summer with his father, who has been diagnosed with clogged arteries in his heart.
HOW WILL APARECIDO LOOK?: Aparecido begins the stretch run in the world No. 1 ranking – something he hasn’t surrendered since taking over the top spot with his Iron Cowboy title.
The race is much tighter now that Aparecido didn’t compete this summer.
Pacheco is only 105 points behind him, while Kolbaba, Lockwood and Outlaw all are within 979 points.
Will Aparecido pick up where he left off in the first half?
Historically, Aparecido is 57-for-131 (43.51 percent) during the final three months of a season. Aparecido was only 16-for-38 (42.1 percent) last year.
Simply put, Aparecido will need to ride better than he ever has to win the 2017 world title.
Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports commentator Justin McBride believes Aparecido can do just that.
“Don’t be counting out my man Eduardo,” McBride said this summer. “I don’t think he is going to fade away. He is either going to maintain how good he is right now or he is going to get any better. I don’t think he is going to be able to maintain where is at right now and be a World Champion. He has to get better.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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