By: Justin Felisko
December 03, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Luciano de Castro stood in the main lobby of T-Mobile Arena during rider check-in at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals and looked on anxiously.
Castro had the look of a disappointed 6-year-old on his face that had learned he was actually too tall to ride the rollercoaster at Disneyland.
The 20-year-old from Guzolandia, Brazil, had come to the United States this fall so that he could compete at the 2015 Velocity Tour Finals in place of 2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa. However, Barbosa was able to get a last-minute visa and made it to Las Vegas just in time.
Therefore, Castro spent all of PBR Finals Week watching the best bull riders in the world challenge their own rollercoaster of opponents in 2,000-pound animals.
“It is hard,” Castro said at the time with the help of Guilherme Marchi translating. “It is hard because I had plans to come here this week and get on at the (Velocity Finals). Dener decided at the last minute to come, but I am still happy to be here. They dream to be here. It is not easy seeing the other riders doing check in and me here.”
Castro has since been able to make his PBR debut in the United States with mixed results.
The 2015 PBR Brazil champion rode his first bull (Bush Baby for 68 points) in his debut at the Ontario, California, Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals, but he accepted his re-ride and was bucked off by Mayday in 6.12 seconds.
Castro then responded by going 2-for-4 at the New Town, North Dakota, Velocity Tour event a week later. His first qualified ride on American soil, not counting the re-ride, was 86 points on Just Juan and he then rode More Big Bucks for 88.5 points.
He has drawn Highway 67 for Round 1 of the Hidalgo, Texas, RVT event at State Farm Arena Saturday night.
This weekend is only his third United States PBR event.
Castro understands how important the Velocity Tour events will be as he tries to crack the Top 35 of the world standings and make his Built Ford Tough Series debut in January at Madison Square Garden.
“It is so important right now because my dream is to be a World Champion,” Castro said with the help of Marco Eguchi in New Town. “I know to be a World Champion, I have to be on the Built Ford Tough.
Castro arrived in the U.S. with high expectations as multiple Brazilian bull riders called Castro Brazil’s version of 2016 PBR Rookie of the Year Jess Lockwood.
Castro won the 2015 PBR Brazil championship and finished runner-up to Barbosa in 2016. He also is a two-time Ekip Rozeta champion in Brazil.
Castro, whose father used to be a stock contractor in Brazil, went 79-for-93 (84.95 percent) in his first two PBR Brazil seasons. Luciano is also a perfect 10-for-10 at the prestigious PBR Barretos bull riding the last two years.
He began riding bulls competitively at 16 years old.
Marchi compared Castro’s potential to that of 2015 Rookie of the Year Kaique Pacheco, who has finished second in the world standings in his first two seasons.
“He is a new Rookie of the Year,” Marchi said before patting Castro on the back. “One of those two guys, Dener or Luciano. Just like Kaique (Pacheco), they have a dream to be here. They have the potential to be a World Champion. They ride strong and ride easy. They are good kids. They were raised well.”
In Ontario, Wallace de Oliveira’s eyes got wide as he said, “Watch out for this kid.”
Castro has been living with three-time World Champion Silvano Alves and Alves’ family in Decatur, Texas.
The rookie bull rider won Alves’ Brazil open bull riding event a few years ago and has stayed in touch with Alves for three years.
“It is a pleasure for me to live with Silvano and Evelin,” Castro said. “They have accepted me and are taking care of me so well. I am so happy to be staying with one of the best bull riders in the world. It is a lot for me.”
Alves is making his 2017 season debut in Hidalgo and has raved about Castro for the last two years. He has said Castro will be a rider to keep an eye on going forward.
“In Brazil, he is the best bull rider right now,” Alves said. “The bulls in Brazil are different from American bulls. It depends. Some guys ride really good in Brazil and come here and don’t ride good. He has a good chance to ride well here.”
Alves believes Castro, as well as Barbosa, who also is competing in Hidalgo, could join Pacheco as Brazilian young guns on the BFTS.
“The two new young guys. It is very hard to explain,” Alves said. “It is their first time here. They have to ride the rank bulls. I know they can because they ride good, but they need to see more.”
Castro rides with a loose upper body and free arm, while maintaining strong core positioning.
Alves agreed that Castro has a riding style that is almost a combination of himself and two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney.
“It looks more like J.B.,” Castro explained. “Like Silvano, his style is different. It is more stiff. I am a little more loose. To learn how to ride like Silvano is so hard because it is so different. I am very strong in the legs, but very loose with my upper body.”
Castro is competing in the United States until Dec. 19. He will return home to Brazil to see his 3-month old son and family. Castro will then come back to the United States and continue his pursuit of qualifying for the BFTS after the holidays.
He admitted he has been a little nervous in his adjustment so far, but every day has gotten easier.
“I am kind of nervous because everything is different for me,” Castro said. “I am far from my family. I have a new baby. I have left my family alone. This is hard, but this is my dream. I want to be here and I want to do good.
“I don’t know if I am going to do good like Silvano or Kaique, those guys did it, but I am going to try hard and try to make my dream come true.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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