AUSTIN, Texas – Claudio Montanha Jr. opened up his free hand and pointed at his left ring finger an hour before the start of the WinStar World Casino & Resort Invitational on Friday night.
Montanha’s finger was still swollen two weeks after he was bucked off by Lester Gillis and lacerated his finger in Atlantic City.
The No. 2-ranked bull rider in the world said that it wasn’t the pain that bothered him last week in Fairfax, Virginia, but rather the fact that he had to ride with a small brace on his hand to prevent an infection, as the laceration had not healed.
That small brace got into his head, Montanha admitted, and he bucked off both of his bulls in Virginia.
“A couple weeks ago I had an incident and I landed on my riding hand,” Montanha said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I wasn’t supposed to ride last week. The doctor wasn’t going to let me ride unless I wore the brace. I just beared down and I didn’t have good results. The weight of the brace made me not feel right.”
Montanha said prior to the start of Round 1 on Friday night in Austin that he was ready to bounce back after seeing world leader Kaique Pacheco extend his lead on him with a victory in Fairfax.
Gone was the brace, and Montanha was focused on getting back into the title race.
Montanha did that by riding Alligator Arms for 86.5 points to finish Round 1 in a tie for fourth place with Joao Ricardo Vieira (86.5 points on No Prisoners).
“In an event like this, you have to get on a bull like that,” Montanha said with the help of Marco Eguchi translating. “A good bull and I had to do my job.”
The 29-year-old picked up 35 world points for the placement and inched closer to Pacheco.
Pacheco was bucked off by After Midnight in 1.39 seconds. It was the fastest buckoff in Round 1.
Montanha now trails Pacheco by 1,176.67 points with three regular-season events and the 2018 PBR World Finals.
“It is just the fact that Kaique has been riding great,” Montanha said. “I don’t have to look to catch him. I have to do my job.”
Montanha has been inconsistent throughout much of the year. He is 28-for-73 (38.36 percent) in 23 premier series events, but he also has two event wins, two runner-up finishes, and seven Top-5 finishes.
The second-year pro and No. 7 Cody Nance (84 points on Crazy Days) were the only two riders in the Top 10 to record a qualified ride in Round 1.
Nance finished Round 1 in 10th place for no world points. There were a total of 12 qualified rides Friday night.
“I don’t care too much about that,” Montanha said. “I have had to figure out my own mistakes. I needed confidence. I have a great bull for tomorrow.”
Montanha has drawn Indian Medicine (7-4, PBR UTB) for Round 2 at the Frank Erwin Center.
Both Nance and Montanha have struggled since the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast resumed last month. Friday night was only the fourth qualified ride on the premier series for both riders since the summer break.
Nance takes on Chubs (7-0, PBR UTB) in Round 2.
Fans can watch the conclusion of Round 2 on RidePass beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET on Saturday night or on CBS Sports Network Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.
“This weekend I have good bulls and I am feeling better,” Montanha concluded. “I think I am going to have a great weekend.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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