By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Colten Jesse remembers leaving Rocksprings, Texas, three weeks ago fresh off a Touring Pro Division victory and thinking about the championship battle he was going to be a part of for these next four-plus months.
Jesse had won the second night of competition at the Slick Rock Challenge, 24 hours after world leader Jose Vitor Leme claimed the first of two TPD events in Rocksprings that weekend.
“Since the beginning of the season I felt like I would be up there in contention one or two coming down to the Finals,” Jesse said. “After Jose won that first night, and I won that second night in Rocksprings, it just hit me.
“It feels like it is going to be me and him.”
Anticipation continues to build for the Unleash The Beast to resume next month, but the stretch run for the 2020 world title race has essentially begun.
For Jesse, the No. 6-ranked bull rider in the world, the time is now to begin to make a move if he wants to challenge Jose Vitor Leme in the 2020 World Championship race.
Jesse knows he also will have to contend with No. 2 Jess Lockwood once he returns from his torn left hamstring, No. 3 Joao Ricardo Vieira, No. 4 Daylon Swearingen and No. 5 Kaique Pacheco as well.
But, as of today, the man to beat is Leme, and any chance to gain points on the world No. 1 will be crucial between now and the 2020 World Finals on Nov. 4-8.
Jesse will try to make up some ground this weekend as one of nine riders inside the Top 35 of the world standings who are set to compete this Friday and Saturday at the Buckin’ at the Ranch Touring Pro Division event in Prairie Grove, Arkansas.
RidePass will carry all the action live both nights, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.
“I felt like I was going to win the world my whole life, but especially after the Finals last year coming off that shoulder injury, it just lit a fire in my belly, and I was just ready to get things rolling and got a real good start to the season,” Jesse said. “Kind of had some hiccups the middle of the year, and the coronavirus could put a hamper on a guy’s momentum so to speak, but I don’t know.
“I still feel like I am going to make a huge push in the second half, maybe similar to a J.B. Mauney in 2013 or even Jess Lockwood last year. It can be done. I have no doubt in myself. I am excited. I am just excited to have fun and ride some bulls. If you ride bulls, you start winning events. That is going to be a key factor in this world title race.”
Mauney famously overcame a 3,056-point deficit to defeat Silvano Alves for the 2013 World Championship, and Lockwood came back from 749.66 points at the start of the Finals to defeat Leme last year in the old points systems.
Additional riders tentatively expected to compete in the makeshift outdoor arena built on Ogden Ranch include No. 13 Mauricio Moreira, No. 14 Matt Triplett, No. 27 Joao Henrique Lucas, No. 30 Andrew Alvidrez, No. 31 Alves, No. 33 Amadeu Campos, No. 34 Brennon Eldred and No. 35 Cody Casper.
The winner of the event earns 15 points toward the world standings. A rider can win a maximum of 23 points if he is double-entered and finishes in first and second.
Jesse is 454 points behind Leme in the world standings, which is roughly 1,816 points in last year’s point system.
Leme had originally entered the event this weekend, but decided this week to opt out of the event because of a minor hand injury.
“I will stay home this weekend, I need rest,” Leme said. “I just need rest, you know? I ride a lot bulls in the lasts weeks. I’m really sore.”
Leme went 11-for-16 at the Monster Energy Team Challenge, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, leading Team Cooper Tires to a championship. He also went 1-for-2 at the Sioux Falls Invitational Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour event.
The 23-year-old is looking forward to using the next three weeks to recharge his batteries before the second half.
“I don’t have any plans,” Leme said. “I think I will stay home with my wife, do some things with her. Keep focus on my body, stay practicing in home, work out, ride some bulls in the week, play soccer, volleyball. I want to just enjoy this summer with my family and friends. Take a little break for my personal life, but never stop the practice.”
Jesse finished in third-place at the Sioux Falls Velocity event courtesy of an 88.75-point ride on Sky Harbor. He was 4-for-12 at the METC.
The Konowa, Oklahoma, native is 24-for-66 at all levels of competition in 2020.
Buckin’ at the Ranch is the brainchild of stock contractor Nathan Ogden after Springdale’s 76th annual Rodeo of the Ozarks was cancelled.
“The soul of a cowboy desires to do good to those in need,” Ogden said in a press release last month. “Our country is in dire need of positivity and an example of a way to move forward, safely, in a positive direction. Buckin’ At The Ranch will feature the top PBR cowboys on a ranch with an Arkansas Dept. of Heath approved/CDC plan to include bleacher seating, lawn chair and blanket-viewing areas as well as a Drive-in/Park and Watch viewing option to include in-car FM tuning for live buck-by-buck announcing.”
Ogden, the president of Pick-It Construction, has built a custom arena for the event and has brought in bleacher seating to transform 400 acres into a makeshift venue for the weekend.
In October of 2016, Luke Bryan brought his Farm Tour concert to the same location.
If Rocksprings could do it, why not Prairie Grove?
“When the going gets tough cowboys don’t lay down and quit,” Ogden stated. “We roll up our sleeves and go to work. So, saddle up and we’ll see ya at the ranch!”
Jesse plans on competing in Prairie Grove, as well as the next Touring Pro Division event on the schedule – Deadwood, South Dakota, on July 31 & Aug. 1 – before the UTB ramps back into full force in Bismarck, North Dakota, on Aug. 7-8.
The 23-year-old is grateful for all Ogden has done to pull off this event for himself and his fellow bull riders.
“Nathan Ogden is one of the greatest guys I have ever met,” Jesse concluded. “I enjoy hanging out with Nathan, but everything he does for not only bull riders, but bulls, and now putting on this event for us, I couldn’t thank the guy enough for everything he does. I am looking forward to getting up there and spending some time with him.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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