The quest for a third world title in as many years—a feat that has never ever been accomplished in the 29-year history of the PBR—has been a fight and grind for the reigning two-time PBR World Champion Jose Vitor Leme.
“Yeah, this year has been very different to me,” said Leme, in an interview with CBS. “But I think all the world titles (are) different.”
Leme said he does not feel he has been drawing round-winning bulls. The Monster Energy rider has been trying his best to make the most of his matchups.
“I’m going to keep trying to do my best every time,” Leme continued, “and ride my bulls like I did last year, and the year before, and maybe win a world title again. … I just want to enjoy this time and maybe win again.”
That said, Leme is still ranked fifth in the PBR world standings.
The difference being, he is riding right at 50 percent this season compared to 69.5 percent a year ago and 65.3 percent when he won his first title in 2020. As a matter of fact, his 50 percent in 2022 — a career year for most other bull riders — is his lowest showing since arriving in the U.S. in 2017. He finished 2018, his first full season at the elite televised level of competition, at 54 percent.
His total number of 90-point rides (4) is significantly down from a year ago when he recorded a PBR record 28 in a single season.
Again, struggling for Leme is not at all the same as it for others.
As previously mentioned, Leme is fifth in the world and there is a belief among the rest of the Top 35 riders that the notion of anyone not named Leme winning a gold buckle and collecting the $1 million bonus comes down to outriding Leme at the PBR World Finals.
Leme and his fellow Monster Energy riders will be in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for a three-day event this weekend
Derek Kolbaba is looking to close out a strong month of May and open April with an elusive event win.
The 25-year-old from Walla Walla, Washington, has been close, and as he told PBR.com, “that makes that fire burn a little harder and makes me work a little harder throughout the week to show up and do something.”
Kolbaba, a seven-time PBR qualifier, is ranked 15th in the world.
Marco Eguchi is 19th, while Cody Teel is 21st. Chase Outlaw, who is week to week while recovering from a groin injury, is 34th and, like Outlaw, two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood could also return to competition in the next week or so.
Though Kolbaba is heading to his home state this week, many of the riders will travel directly to Everett, Washington, from Sioux Falls for a midweek event and then down to nearby Tacoma, Washington, for next weekend’s elite event.