Spoiler Alert:


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End of the road

One of the best stories of this year's World Finals came to an end on Saturday morning. Oklahoma rider Ryan McConnel was forced to doctor out of the final three rounds with a chest contusion suffered when his Round Five bull, Rowdy Houdlum, stepped on his chest.

McConnel was lucky even to be here in Las Vegas after being involved in a near-fatal car crash only a few days before the Finals began. McConnel suffered a punctured lung and contusions to his arms and face in the accident, during which his pickup truck rolled six times. True to the fighting spirit the 22-year old is known for, McConnel not only made it to Las Vegas, but was sitting in fifth in the world and seventh in the event average after riding three of his five bulls.

Despite his injuries, McConnel was determined to keep riding as of late Friday night, when he sent a text message to PBR medical director Dr. Tandy Freeman saying he wanted to continue on. Unfortunately, the severity of his injuries finally forced the young rider's hand, and he doctored out early Saturday morning.

Stepping up in McConnel's place was alternate Clayton Baethge from Johnson City, Texas, who rode McConnel's draft pick, SkyHawk Cut-a-Rug, for 85 points in Round Six. McConnel hopes to be back in action in time for the Challenger Series Championships in Atlanta, Ga., later this month.

Spoiler alert

While much of the attention this week has focused on the two-man race between Kody Lostroh and J.B. Mauney, the most important guy in the arena may turn out to be neither one of them. That honor could go to Brazilian rider Valdiron de Oliveira, who has a chance to play the spoiler if he keeps up his run at the average title. Currently, Oliveira sits in third behind Mauney and Lostroh, but if he were to leap Lostroh he could potentially keep the current world no. 1 from claiming the world title. The scenarios only get more complicated from there, but suffice to say if you're rooting for Mauney or Lostroh, you should probably root for Oliveira to stay right where he is.

Cold streak

Three riders on Saturday found themselves with an undesirable distinction  they are the only three who have failed to score a qualified ride through six rounds in the World Finals. Perhaps most surprising among them is two-time world champion Chris Shivers, who continued his cold streak by bucking off Bible Bender in 4.6 seconds during Round Six. The other riders are Dallas, Texas' Bryan Richardson and Summerville, Oregon's Cody Campbell. They'll have one more shot tomorrow in the long round at the Thomas & Mack Center before spending a long offseason wondering what went wrong.

One rider who dug himself out of that club is reigning world champion Guilherme Marchi, who finally made the whistle aboard Rowdy LJ for a score of 86 points to raucous cheers from the sold-out crowd.

Dangerous game

Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center was full of rides — 24, to be exact — but it was also full of a few fantastic wrecks. In case anyone thought this sport was easy, prior to intermission three riders were already on their way to the hospital: Ross Coleman, Beau Hill and Bryan Richardson.

Coleman separated his shoulder en route to scoring an 86.75 on Double Scoop, while Hill suffered the same injury while riding Cajun Blast to an 88.5 and a tie for seventh in the round. Richardson was the only one of the three not to cover his bull; he was bucked off Stiffler in 5.3 seconds and suffered a possible broken eye socket after colliding with the bull's horn. ESPN Rodeo will have updates as soon as we know them, but early reports suggest all three riders are fine.

Make sure to follow ESPN Rodeo + Bull Riding @ www.twitter.com/espnrodeo for live updates from inside the Thomas & Mack Center.

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Check back with ESPN.com and pbrnow.com all week long for continuing coverage of the 2009 PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.