PUEBLO, Colo. – The man he is chasing from one year ago is the same, but the deficit and the situation are very different.
Eduardo Aparecido has been well aware of this since the 25th PBR: Unleash The Beast resumed from its summer break, and as he talked about the upcoming stretch run last month, Aparecido admitted that the 2018 season has been easier on him mentally as he has stayed relatively out of the limelight and World Championship conversation.
“It is less risk to be behind because all the TV and media focus on the No. 1 guys,” Aparecido said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “The ones behind, they don’t do much with them, which means they don’t have as much pressure.
“When you are No. 1 you don’t want to lose your position. When you are behind, you always want to go forward. I feel like that is probably better position to be in right now.”
That does not mean Aparecido is not thinking about winning a championship or that he cares less about a gold buckle this year, though.
“I know if God wants me to win, I will win,” he added. “I am fighting for it. I have been training for it. I am dedicated for it.”
Aparecido thrust himself back into a national audience in a big way last weekend at the PFIWestern.com Invitational, presented by Bass Pro Shops.
In the most-watched national broadcast of the season, Aparecido rode Shelley’s Gangster for 89.75 points to win the 15/15 Bucking Battle. Combine that with his third-place finish in the regular-formatted event in Springfield, Missouri, and Aparecido left the Show Me State with a season-high 390 world points.
“We always talk about Eduardo quietly having a good season and once again he is putting himself in the mix,” two-time World Champion Justin McBride said during the CBS telecast. “He is getting in the conversation at the right time to make a push for a world title.”
Aparecido heads into this weekend’s Atlantic City Invitational 1,740.01 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco.
The Gouvelandia, Brazil, bull rider has drawn Crazy Days (19-12, PBR UTB) for Round 1.
Fans can watch all of the action Saturday night from Boardwalk Hall beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET on RidePass.
Aparecido has pushed himself back to within striking distance of world leader Pacheco.
But it is a stark contrast from where Aparecido was a year ago.
Aparecido spent six months as the No. 1 rider in the world in 2017, and he was only 150 points behind Pacheco at this point last year.
In fact, Aparecido was statistically one of – if not the best – rider in the PBR on year ago.
No one spent as much time in the world No. 1 ranking in 2017 as Aparecido. No rider had more qualified rides (44) than Aparecido on the premier series. No one had as high a riding percentage as Aparecido (51.16 percent).
However, Aparecido failed to seal the deal at the World Finals, going 2-for-5 and watching Jess Lockwood walk out of T-Mobile Arena with the 2017 world title.
He finished 663.34 points behind Lockwood in the final standings.
“It is just really hard,” Aparecido said. “I suffer with the format. I ride very consistent, but it doesn’t matter. It is not the amount of rides, but the points. Through my experience, I learn not to suffer anymore. I will adapt to the situation and just do my part and ride, and when it is going to happen it is going to happen.”
Aparecido also rode Lil 2 Train for 89.75 points in Round 1 in Springfield, and that ride and his 8-second effort on Shelley’s Gangster rank as his second and fourth-best rides of the season.
The six-year pro is 27-for-62 (43.55 percent) with a victory (Glendale, Arizona), four Top-5 finishes and nine Top-10s.
The 28-year-old still has plenty of ground to make up in the 2018 title race, but his Springfield performance has kept him within distance of Pacheco, who still pushed an additional 310 points ahead of Aparecido in Springfield.
The 15/15 Bucking Battle victory tied Aparecido with Pacheco for the most career 15/15 Bucking Battle victories (5).
“He is perfect for 8 seconds. A really good ride on a great draw for Eduardo,” McBride said of Aparecido’s ride on Shelley’s Gangster. “This guy has the ability.
“We talk about it every year. He could be a player.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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