PUEBLO, Colo. – 2017 Rookie of the Year contenders Cody Teel and Dener Barbosa were on their way back from a recent PBR Experience Walmart autograph signing when the two attempted to have a conversation in the back of an Uber.
The problem was Teel – the 2012 PRCA bull riding champion from Kountze, Texas – could not speak a lick of Portuguese, while Barbosa – the 2016 PBR Brazil champion – is still learning some of the basic words of the English language.
Therefore, in stepped technology.
The two bull riders were headed back to their hotel in Colorado Springs, Colorado, when they used their cell phones Google Translation functions to have a small conversation.
The two spoke of each other’s wives, ranches and how many cattle they have. Barbosa explained to Teel how his wife, Flavia and son, John Vitor, had recently moved to the United States with him, and showed Teel pictures of them and his ranch.
Each rider enjoyed the brief time they had together to bond outside of the arena despite the language barrier.
“Absolutely. It means a lot,” Teel said. “Dener is a real good guy. It can be hard getting to know the Brazilians because of the language barrier, but it was good getting to know him some.”
Barbosa said, with the help of Silvano Alves translating, “He is only my competition inside the arena. I showed him pictures of my ranch and cows. We talked about how we both care for cattle. He is a good guy and has rode very good.”
Teel and Barbosa were the only riders to record qualified scores during last weekend’s 15/15 Bucking Battle in Nampa, Idaho.
Teel won the event with an 87.25-point ride on Beaver Creek Beau, while Barbosa was fresh on his heels with 87 points on Moto Moto.
“I have had a lot of opportunities to advance, and I haven’t finished strong lately,” Teel said. “I just have to ride them all. I had strung together a couple of rides lately, and I have felt good. I just have to find that rhythm. You definitely have to cut loose on a bull like that. You can’t clamp. It felt good to get one past like that, that makes you ride through it for sure.”
Teel has ridden four of his last seven following a 3-for-19 start to the second half of the season.
“It wears on you, when you put yourself into that rut,” Teel said. “You have to ride out of it. I went to some small rodeos to get into that rhythm these last couple of weeks.”
Teel and Barbosa are separated by only two years in age, with Teel being the elder at 25 years old, but both arrived this year on the Built Ford Tough Series with previous championships on their belt.
They are now battling it out for the prestigious Rookie of the Year award and belt buckle.
Teel – the No. 9 rider in the world standings – is 312.5 points ahead of Barbosa, who is currently 15th in the world standings.
“He is a good guy and has rode very good,” Barbosa said. “We both rode good. We are the first two guys for the rookies. I am second, but I am going to try hard. He is really good. He is good competition between now and the Finals.”
Teel has drawn Mama’s Bad Pet (0-0, BFTS) for Round 1 of the Frontier Communications Invitational, presented by Ariat, this weekend.
Barbosa will take on JJ’s Dream (0-1, BFTS) in Round 1 and has been making a march toward the top rookie ranking.
The 23-year-old has earned 797.5 points toward the standings since Teel used a runner-up finish at the Music City Knockout in Nashville, Tennessee, in August to open up a 960-point lead on Barbosa in the rookie rankings.
Barbosa leads all rookies with 28 qualified rides and a 43.75 percent riding average in 22 events. Teel has gone 18-for-51 (35.29 percent) in six fewer events.
Other riders eligible for the Rookie of the Year title are Claudio Montanha Jr., Luciano de Castro, Brennon Eldred, Ramon de Lima, Koal Livingston and Troy Wilkinson.
“This rookie class is awesome,” Teel said. “All those guys are great guys and they ride great. We are riding bulls. We are competing against them. We are all in this together. Those guys are super good guys. The level of competition is so high, it makes everyone rise up to it.
“It makes Rookie of the Year meaningful too.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2018 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.