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Derek Kolbaba rides Jane Clark/Gene Owen's Big Dutch for 91 during the second round of the Oklahoma City Unleash the Beast PBR tour.


Jan 242018

The opening month to the 2018 PBR season has been a wide range of emotions for the Monster Energy team of professional bull riders.

From the euphoria of Gage Gay’s elite televised event win in New York City, where it was announced that Monster Energy would be the title sponsor for the PBR’s historic 25th anniversary season, to significant injuries sustained by two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, three-time World Finals event winner Robson Palermo and, ultimately, Gay a week later in Chicago.

It might sound cliché, but, yeah, it’s been the worst of times, it’s been the best of times.


But in each of the first three events, Monster Energy has had at least two of its team members qualify for the Championship Round and two of them have finished among the Top 10.


In addition to Gay winning in New York, Mauney finished ninth in the average with former World Champion Guilherme Marchi also competing in the Championship Round.


Unfortunately, Mauney strained a groin muscle and is expected to miss his third consecutive event this week in Sacramento, California. He remains week-to-week, while Gay is out until May after injuring his knee in Chicago when he was slammed into the steel bucking chute.


Gay is still the third-ranked rider in the world standings. Mauney is 14th and Jose Vitor Leme, a newcomer to the team in 2018, is 17th in the world.


“I’m going to continue what I did at the Finals,” said Leme, talking about winning the World Finals in his PBR debut. Leme spoke with members of the media with the help of translator Paulo Crimber.


Following his breakout season, in 2017, when he finished second in the world, Derek Kolbaba is currently ranked 19th in the world standings.


He’s finished the past two events – Chicago followed by Oklahoma City – 10th and sixth in the average.


It hasn’t quite been the start Kolbaba was hoping for, but his second-round effort for 91 points in Oklahoma City seems to have reignited the youngster from Walla Walla, Washington.


“That’s an awesome bull,” said Kolbaba, of his matchup with Big Dutch.


Two-time World Champion Justin McBride, who is now a broadcaster with CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network, added, “You can’t do it much better than Derek Kolbaba just did.”


Kolbaba has had two top-10 finishes, while Gay, Mauney, Leme and Marchi have all had one.


Marchi is currently ranked 27th in the world.


Marchi became a father for the third time during the off-season and has had a renewed sense of focus on his family. In turn, the 14-year pro from Brazil has actually been more relaxed when he’s competing then has been in recent years.


“When you can find that perspective you can find everything else a lot more enjoyable,” said McBride, of the emotional ups and downs of being a 35-year-old professional athlete in the world’s most dangerous game on dirt.


The team heads to the west coast for two weeks with back-to-back events in Sacramento followed by Anaheim.