Leme Looking to Make Velocity Tour Finals History in Sioux Falls on His Path to a World Championship in Arlington

By: Justin Felisko

PUEBLO, Colo. – Jose Vitor Leme is the closest he has ever been to achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a PBR World Champion, and the world No. 1 bull rider continues to remain gold-plated, driven on making that dream reality.

“I am ready,” Leme told on Tuesday afternoon. “I have not stopped working. I have kept practicing. I don’t like days off.”

Leme has continued to hit the practice pen, as well as the soccer field, for some cardio work since he last competed at the Unleash The Beast regular-season finale in Nampa, Idaho.

The world No. 1 bull rider is training with focus, determination and unwavering drive.

Leme explained there isn’t a precise science to his training every day, but that he is focusing more on staying fresh and keeping his timing ready for when it matters most. He cannot sit still at home in Decatur, Texas, and twiddle his thumbs waiting for the PBR’s next event.

“I don’t have an exact amount of bulls I want to practice on during the week or during a day, I just don’t like to go without practicing,” Leme said. “I always like to practice every week before going to events, but I certainly don’t practice on just one bull. I always like to ride two or three, or even more, when I go to different places. I don’t really like to lift weights, but sometimes I do it. I like to run, play soccer, keep my body active.”

Leme will shift from the practice pen and back into sanctioned competition on Friday night at the 2020 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Fans can watch all of the Velocity Tour Finals exclusively on RidePass beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday night.

The 24-year-old in the world has a commanding lead in the world title race, but Leme is well aware that no lead is truly safe until the PBR’s gold buckle is in his grasp on stage inside AT&T Stadium on Nov. 15 during last day of the 2020 PBR World Finals.

Leme can earn up to 105 world points in Sioux Falls if he wins every round and the event average inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center. Leme, though, knows the Velocity Tour Finals is not the be-all, end-all.

It was just last season that Leme won the 2019 Velocity Tour Finals, as well as the 2019 Velocity Tour Championship, only to lose the 2019 World Championship after going 4-for-6 at the World Finals. Two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood went 5-for-6 to win the 2019 World Finals and World Championship. Lockwood overcame what would have been a 498-point lead in the 2020 PBR points system.

With 1,060 world points available for one rider at the 2020 PBR World Finals, anything can happen.

“I do not believe that the final (result) of the Velocity Finals will have a great impact on the World Finals,” Leme said. “Of course, every point is very important, but with this new points system everything will be decided at the World Finals.”

The Velocity Tour Finals will likely be more important for riders trying to get closer to Leme in the world standings, especially No. 2 Joao Ricardo Vieira, who is 459.09 points behind Leme in the world standings.

Leme, though, is looking forward to gaining momentum toward the PBR World Finals on Nov. 12-15 with a strong showing in Sioux Falls and possibly making history in Sioux Falls.

The 24-year-old is also the No. 1-ranked rider in the Velocity Tour standings, and he could become the first two-time and back-to-back Velocity Tour Champion.

“Every title is something that is remembered,” Leme said. “I didn’t know that no one has won the Velocity Tour twice, but that would be a really cool thing to do. If that happens, it will be awesome.”

The 2020 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour champion wins a $35,000 bonus.

The Velocity Tour championship race is completely wide open, too. Leme is on top with 84 points, but one rider can earn up to 105 points in Sioux Falls. Therefore, any one of the 45 riders competing inside the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center can leave South Dakota with the championship.

Leme understands the risks involved with competing at the Velocity Tour Finals. 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco nearly lost the world title when he tore ligaments in his left knee at the Velocity Tour Finals. However, Leme says you cannot approach the sport, or life, in fear of what may happen.

“Injuries are not things that go through my head at any time,” Leme said. “It is clear that when this happens, unfortunately, we have to deal with the situation, but this is not something I keep thinking about. The risk is every moment. Every bull I practice on, or even in the first round of the World Finals. It doesn’t matter. The risk is daily. I prefer to focus more on being ready to ride bulls than thinking about injuries.”

In regards to his health, Leme said his sprained thumb on his riding hand is no longer an issue after he injured it attempting to ride Joe Bannanas in Nampa.

“I’m feeling great,” Leme said. “My hand is already 100%. I’m just looking forward to riding those bulls.”

Leme’s career took off at the 2017 Velocity Tour Finals when he turned a PBR Brazil invite into a qualification spot for the 2017 World Finals.

It was then where Leme stormed the PBR world, going 6-for-6 to win the World Finals event title and Rookie of the Year award just 10 days after arriving in the United States for the first time.

Leme has since evolved into a PBR superstar in only three full seasons on tour. Many would consider him the sport’s greatest bull rider, especially considering how strong his 2020 campaign has been and his back-to-back runner-up finishes in previous world title races.

Regardless, Leme still has an appreciation and affection for what the Velocity Tour has done for his life and career.

“The time goes very fast,” Leme said. “The Velocity Tour is a special competition for me because that is where it all started in my career here in the USA. Every year, I go to compete here and I will try to be a Velocity Tour Finalist, too. The Velocity Finals are very difficult. It depends a lot on the luck of the draw, too.”

Leme said he is excited for his tough test in Round 1 on Friday night against Party Animal (8-0, all levels). Party Animal bucks off his opponents in an average of 4.25 seconds.

“Really rank away from my hand,” Leme said. “This is great practice for the World Finals. Ever since I arrived here in 2017, I always choose 90-point (caliber) bulls to ride.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko

Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media

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