Diminutive Alves, fellow Brazilians set torrid pace in PBR World Finals

At 5 feet 7 inches and 150 pounds, Silvano Alves doesn't look like much of a cowboy.

But one should not be fooled by the Brazilian's slight frame and modest demeanor. He's not only a cowboy, but he's the best of them all.

Alves will take a nearly insurmountable lead into today's final two rounds of the Professional Bull Riders World Finals at the Thomas & Mack Center, so it's likely he will be crowned as the 2011 champion by the day's end.

Even so, the 2010 rookie of the year remained straight-faced and calm Saturday as he discussed the possibility of his first championship.

"I'm not nervous, and I don't feel any pressure," said the 23-year-old rider, who resides in Decatur, Texas. "There's no secret to what I do. I just try hard and ride one bull at a time."

That strategy has worked well for Alves, who began his strong run by finishing second in last year's World Finals. He took over the series' top ranking after placing third in Thackerville, Okla., in July and has remained there since.

"Last year I rode really good, but I didn't get started until the middle of the season," said Alves, who rode 62 percent of his bulls and had three wins, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10 finishes in 2010. "This year, I've had a chance to ride in all of the events."

Alves has dominated with three wins, 14 top-five finishes and 66 rides in 97 attempts this season, but he is not the only Brazilian to enjoy success. In fact, six of the top 12 riders are from Brazil.

"I would be proud to take the world championship back to Brazil," said Alves, who has amassed 13,161.50 points this season. "I'm proud of myself and all of my friends from Brazil. When the other guys ride good, it makes me want to ride good, too."

Two of Alves' countrymen are closest to him in the points standings. Valdiron de Oliveira heads into today's competition second with 11,111.50 points, and Robson Palermo is third with 9,727.75.

Palermo, the 2009 rookie of the year, said he will enter fifth-round action today knowing this year's championship is pretty much out of reach.

"It's going to be hard for me because I'm so far behind," Palermo said. "But I don't feel any pressure, either. ... I'm going to try to ride every bull I get on."

Like Alves, Palermo is happy enough just to be riding bulls and representing his country. "If I don't win, I should be No. 2 or No. 3," said the 28-year-old Palermo, who has won four events this season. "It's going to be awesome."

Each of the top three Brazilians fared well Saturday, as Palermo rode Vitalix White Velvet to claim the fifth-best score of the night (88.0); Alves was seventh (87.25) on Red Man; and Oliveira was eighth (86.75) on Sue.

Thirteen riders went the full eight seconds Saturday, led by Stormy Wing, who racked up 90.25 points. Caleb Sanderson finished the night leading the event with 348.25 points on the week.

Today's fifth round will begin at 11:30 a.m., with the Built Ford Tough championship round immediately to follow.