PUEBLO, Colo. – Claudio Montanha Jr. understands that there are ups and downs involved in every season, but even he knew he had to turn things around.
Montanha had only earned 50 world points in the last month prior to finally breaking through with his first career victory this past weekend at the Duluth Invitational.
The 28-year-old saw fellow Brazilians Ramon de Lima, Dener Barbosa and Luciano de Castro making their push up the standings, and he knew he had to keep pace with two of his fellow members of the Rookie Class of 2017.
“For me it is very important because I started riding really good and the last three weeks I wasn’t riding very good at all,” Montanha said via Paulo Crimber translating. “The first day here, I wasn’t feeling very well mentally and I draw a great bull yesterday in the first round and after that ride it got my confidence back up.”
Montanha had bucked off six consecutive bulls following his second-place finish in Anaheim, California, and eighth-place finish in Kansas City, Missouri.
Prior to his mini slump, Montanha was only 419.17 points out of the world No. 1 ranking and had begun the season 12-for-21 (57.14 percent).
“I don’t really know what happened,” Montanha said. “I think after I got stepped on at Iron Cowboy I was a little off. Thank God everything is OK after this week.”
Montanha’s 89.5-point ride on Buck John in the championship round propelled him to 500 world points, and he is now within only 204.17 points of Lima and the world No.1 ranking.
“I saw this bull I had in the championship round earlier today at the hotel, and I like bulls away from my hand,” Montanha said. “This is why I picked him. I am very happy to ride three in a row.”
Hart was impressed with how Montanha used his outside foot during the ride.
“When this bull makes his first corner to the left, watch his outside foot,” Hart said during the CBS Sports Network telecast. “Right here he kicks loose. That is what you have to do when they come around and they want you to the outside. You have to take that foot out and that moves the weight across that bull’s back and helps you get to the inside. That was done perfectly.”
Montanha had begun his weekend with 84.75 points on Crosshairs before turning down a re-ride option in Round 2 following 78 points on Wham Bam.
This is his third streak of three or more rides this year.
“He never had to ride a rank one, but even in the championship round he had a middle of the road one for the championship round,” Hart said. “All you have to do is make it count. Just make it count.”
The No. 3 ranked bull rider is the latest member from last year’s rookie class to win an event in 2018. Lima has two victories, while Castro won his first two weeks ago in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
Meanwhile, the No. 4 and No. 5 riders in the world standings – Dener Barbosa and Cody Teel – were also part of last year’s talented rookie class.
“Man it is hard to pick one right now,” said CBS Sports Network commentator and PBR Ring of Honor member J.W. Hart. “How can you not go with the guy that just won it?”
Hart then shrugged his shoulders and laughed.
“Luciano and Ramon de Lima are the top two in my opinion, but what do I know,” Hart added.
There have been two common themes so far through the first 10 weeks of the season: Injuries to some of the top riders in the world standings (Barbosa, Cooper Davis, Ryan Dirteater, Derek Kolbaba, Stetson Lawrence and Gage Gay) and last year’s rookie class evolving into World Champion contenders.
Jose Vitor Leme stole the 2017 Rookie of the Year award following his 6-for-6 performance at the 2017 World Finals, but the 2017 PBR Brazil champion was not the only champion in that class.
Barbosa (2016 PBR Brazil), Montanha (2016 Liga Nacional de Rodeio), Teel (2012 PRCA champion), Castro (2015 PBR Brazil) and Lima (2015 Liga Nacional de Rodeio) all already have titles on their resumes.
Here is a quick look at the performances so far of the top riders from the 2017 rookie class.
Jose Vitor Leme (Finished No. 7 overall, currently No. 17)
Dener Barbosa (Finished No. 8 overall, currently No. 4)
Claudio Montanha Jr. (Finished No. 13 overall, currently No. 3)
Cody Teel (Finished No. 14 overall, currently No. 5)
Luciano de Castro (Finished No. 25 overall, currently No. 2)
Brennon Eldred (Finished No. 27 overall, currently No. 22)
Ramon de Lima (Finished No. 30 overall, currently No. 1)
The seven riders have moved up a combined 70 spots in the world standings, and they have increased their riding percentage by almost eight points.
The group was 147-for-342 (42.98 percent) in 2017, and this year they have begun the season 95-for-187 (50.8 percent).
Lima already has five more rides this season (16) than he did all of 2017 on the premier series.
Montanha, Castro and Teel all have 15 qualified rides.
“I don’t have words to explain how happy I am,” Montanha said. “I joked with Luciano de Castro last week that, ‘You win this week and I will go win it this week.’
“It is a blessing from God to win this and get it done.”
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