By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Drops of sweat began to splatter against the wooden gymnasium floor at Fit-N-Wise Rehabilitation & Performance Center in Decatur, Texas, as Claudio Montanha Jr. attempted to rapidly kick his feet up and down through the agility ladder.
Montanha had finished the first half of the Unleash The Beast ranked No. 32 in the world standings and had only ridden six of 35 bulls on the premier series.
The 32-year-old knew this was by no means going to be good enough to get himself qualified for a fifth consecutive PBR World Finals, and he knew he had to focus on improving his physical conditioning as a series of nagging injuries to his groin, riding hand and right shoulder (riding hand) all had slowed him down.
Therefore, Montanha made sure to commit himself to work that much harder in the gym alongside some of his fellow Brazilians in Decatur, such as three-time World Champion Silvano Alves.
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Montanha embraced a series of cardio workouts, adjusted his diet, and told himself he would do what it took to turn things around in the second half of the season. The dedication slowly began to pay dividends during the summer run, especially when he posted two 90-point rides during his victory at the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo on July 24.
The Pacaembu, Brazil, native finally got the breakthrough he needed with the clock counting down toward the 2021 PBR World Finals (Nov. 3-7) this past weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina, when he rode CopperPoint Swagger for an event-winning 88 points, capping off his perfect 3-for-3 showing.
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Montanha’s first premier series win in more than two years helped him punch his ticket to T-Mobile Arena and World Finals as he rocketed from No. 29 in the world standings to No. 17 with only two regular-season events, as well as the 2021 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals, until the PBR World Finals.
“It was a relief because I was really worried about that, but I tried to stay calm,” Montanha said. “This year was very difficult for me. I suffered several injuries, but I recovered. I am 100%.”
Montanha has lost 11 pounds this season as he attempted to get leaner and, in turn, improve his riding. He is 8-for-25 (32%) in the second half.
The fifth-year veteran now weighs 149 pounds heading into this weekend’s PBR Monster Energy Invitational in Manchester, New Hampshire. According to Montanha, he weighed between 160-163 pounds before increasing his workout regimen.
“I work out every day,” Montanha said. “This was my decision because for me to be among the best, I have to do my best.”
Montanha has drawn Dennis The Menace (0-1, UTB) for Round 1 on Saturday night at SNHU Arena (7:45 p.m. ET RidePass on Pluto TV).
Greensboro was Montanha’s first event with three qualified rides since he won the Columbus, Ohio, UTB event in April 2019.
“This is the stuff Claudio Montanha Jr. always has in the tank,” two-time World Champion and CBS Sports Network analyst Justin McBride told Craig Hummer. “He just doesn’t always put it on full display, but he got it all put together this weekend. He picked a great bull in the championship round to win the event.”
Montanha was unable to compete at the World Finals last season after testing positive for COVID-19 just days before the season-culminating event at AT&T Stadium, but now he is excited to know he will be returning to the Finals in 2021.
“It was very difficult to stay out for the World Finals last year, but this year I’m back and very excited for the Finals,” he concluded.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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