DULUTH, Ga. (Nov. 23, 2009) — In case you forgot, the 2008 PBR World Champion was Guilherme Marchi.
And after a forgettable World Finals in 2009, the always consistent Brazilian has taken the early lead in this year's world standings by winning the first Built Ford Tough Series event of the 2010 season.
Marchi was the only man to ride all four bulls in Atlanta at the Challenger Tour Finals, which also served as a BFTS event.
Afterward he said, "In the Finals I didn't do good, but I'm just glad to win this event here."
Marchi, the most consistent rider of the past five seasons, was a title contender last year as he battled both Kody Lostroh and J.B. Mauney all season, until he surprisingly bucked off his first five bulls in Las Vegas before finally covering his last two.
The 2009 campaign is believed to have been the tightest race in PBR history, so it was only fitting that this weekend's event would again come down to Marchi and Mauney. Lostroh, who won the 2009 world title by 594 points, did not compete in Atlanta after undergoing surgery on his riding elbow.
In the waning moments, it came down to Marchi, who selected Cool Spot with the first pick in the bull draft, while Mauney sat on the shark cage as the leader in the overall event average.
Marchi covered to win the event, collect $210,000 and take the early lead in the world standings, while Mauney, by virtue of his high score in the short go, won enough money ($78,750) to claim the Challenger Tour championship for the second time.
Mauney rode Crosswired for 92.25 points and a three-bull total score of 266. But Marchi was the only rider to cover all four. The familiar names are now atop the world standings with 955.5 and 831 points respectively.
Rounding out the top five after the first event are Ross Coleman (735), Ned Cross (708.25) and Robson Palermo (635.5).
"During the Finals, everybody talked about me not riding good and not liking pressure," said Marchi, "but I showed everyone today that I don't need to prove [anything] for [anybody]."
In the past five years, Marchi has never finished lower than third in the world standings, the best five-year stretch of any bull rider in the history of the PBR.
Marchi is just 27 years old, and considering Mauney and Lostroh are both in their early 20s as well, they could be the top three contenders for a number of years.
"Those guys are going to fight every week, you know," Marchi said. "I love those guys and love to see those guys ride because those guys are tough and those guys deserve it."
After the holiday break, the BFTS will resume in Baltimore on January 2 for a two-day event before moving on to another three-day event in New York City the following week.
Although Lostroh missed out on the first tour stop, the Colorado cowboy and reigning 2009 World Champion is expected to compete in January.
"Everybody's happy and this is a good start for me," said Marchi, who fell short in his attempt at winning two consecutive titles. "I finished in the top three [when trying to] win back to back titles, which is not too bad.
"I'm going to be in this fight again."
For more on the PBR, visit www.pbrnow.com.