By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – No, it was not another 90-point ride, and no, it was not another round win for reigning World Champion Jose Vitor Leme.
Instead, the No. 1-ranked bull rider in the world simply took care of business with a third-place finish in Round 1 of the PBR Monster Energy Invitational, presented by Cooper Tires, at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Leme first rode Gangster of Love for 79 points and accepted a re-ride option. He then composed himself to come right back and ride BB King for 87.75 points to finish tied for third place with Cody Jesus (87.75 points on Twisted X). The duo was right on the heels of Round 1 co-winners Derek Kolbaba (88 points on Big Mac) and Clayton Sellars (88 points on Fred).
Leme earned 16.5 world points to extend his lead in the world standings for the second weekend in a row, while his closest challengers in the world title race continue to fade away ever so slowly.
The next three riders in the world standings all bucked off in Round 1 – No. 2 Kaique Pacheco (4.18 seconds vs. Boss Hog), No. 3 Cooper Davis (7.78 seconds vs. Blackfoot Nation) and No. 4 Dener Barbosa (3.98 seconds vs. Hooper Scooper). Barbosa also walked out of the arena holding the wrist of his free arm, but he did not land on the official injury report as of Friday evening.
Leme will take a 603-point lead on Pacheco into Round 2 on Saturday night in Anaheim. Six regular-season Unleash The Beast events remain until the 2021 PBR World Finals begin on Nov. 3 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The 25-year-old has drawn Lights Out (0-4, UTB) for Round 2.
Pacheco has gone back-to-back weekends without earning a point toward the world standings, and he has bucked off five bulls in a row at all levels of competition.
On Saturday night, the 26-year-old will attempt to turn things around against Money (6-2, UTB). Money bucked off Lucas Divino in 5.66 seconds on Friday night.
Meanwhile, Leme has not gone back-to-back weeks on the Unleash The Beast without earning points toward the world standings all season.
After beginning the second half with a slim 68.5-point lead on Pacheco, Leme has outgained Pacheco by 534.5 world points (708.5-174) since he began the stretch run to the Finals by winning Last Cowboy Standing at the end of July.
Leme also has extended his lead atop the world rankings in five of the six Unleash The Beast second-half events.
Fans can watch the conclusion of the PBR Monster Energy Invitational Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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