By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Returning home to Brazil five months ago was a risk Dener Barbosa, Claudio Montanha Jr., Eduardo Aparecido and Ramon de Lima were willing to take.
Barbosa had just won the Gwinnett Invitational in Duluth, Georgia, on March 15, and the PBR’s 2020 season was about to go on a temporary hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Barbosa and some of his fellow Brazilian riders knew the PBR hoped to restart the season as soon as possible, but the four riders, as well as 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco and 2013 Rookie of the Year Joao Ricardo Vieira, decided it was best to head home.
The group, as well as other international riders from Canada and Australia who also decided to leave the country, also knew that travel restrictions could make it harder to return to the United States later in the year, but it was more important for them to return to their families.
Five months later, Barbosa, Montanha, Aparecido and Lima are close to making their second-half Unleash The Beast debuts in the coming weeks. Montanha returned to the United States on Tuesday, and Barbosa will fly out of São Paulo/Guarulhos International Airport in Brazil on Friday night. Meanwhile, Aparecido is hopeful to be cleared to leave Brazil next Tuesday, and Lima expects to be back in Texas by the beginning of September.
All four riders have been working with the PBR and Paulo Crimber on getting the necessary government approvals to return to the United States. They will then self-quarantine at home in Texas and follow CDC guidelines before returning to the Unleash The Beast.
“I’m very excited to be back because I want to fight for the world title,” Barbosa said via WhatsApp on Thursday.
Barbosa is the No. 8-ranked bull rider in the world standings and trails No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme by 548.09 points. Leme can extend that lead even more this weekend at the PBR TicketSmarter Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, in Salt Lake City (Round 1 on RidePass at 9:45 p.m. ET).
It is a stark difference to where Barbosa was when he won the Gwinnett Invitational. Barbosa was the No. 6-ranked rider and 292.5 points behind Leme at the time of his victory.
Oddly, it is the second time in three seasons in which Barbosa’s world title aspirations took a hit in Georgia. In 2018, Barbosa was the No. 3 bull rider in the world before breaking his right foot at Infinite Energy Arena.
This year, of course, was a much different scenario for Barbosa with the COVID-19 pandemic. Barbosa said he only had a little bit of regret about returning home to Brazil, but ultimately he wanted to be with his family in South America during the tumultuous time.
“(I regret) only a little because I haven’t been to many events, but I missed my family in Brazil,” Barbosa said.
The 26-year-old is 14-for-23 (60.87%) in eight events. Barbosa’s riding percentage is second in the PBR among riders with at least 10 outs on the UTB.
Barbosa did not compete at any rodeos or bull ridings in Brazil, opting for the safety of socially distancing at home with his family and limiting himself to just practice bulls.
“I stayed at my home in Brazil,” Barbosa said. “I didn’t go to any events. I just practice riding bulls.”
Aparecido has fallen to 11th in the world standings during his time at home in Brazil, and he is still very much on his way to qualifying for an eighth consecutive PBR World Finals, and appearing at his ninth Finals overall.
Like Barbosa, Aparecido has also remained close to home in Brazil instead of competing at any other rodeo events.
“It’s been really bad not being able to return to the events in the United States, but I’m excited now to return on Tuesday the 25th,” Aparedico said. “I have to stay for 14 days in quarantine and I can go back to (competition) next month in Billings, Montana.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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