By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Lucas Divino sat inside the historic locker room at Madison Square Garden over four months ago and glanced around.
All around him were superstar bull riders.
Jose Vitor Leme was about to begin his third full season in the PBR following a heartbreaking runner-up finish in the 2019 world title race.
Just a few feet away from Divino and Leme, two PBR World Champions sat conversing – three-time World Champion Silvano Alves and 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco.
Glance all the way across the room and two additional champions were joking together, as two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood and 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis were catching up.
The five riders have become household names to PBR fans over the years, even before some of them were hoisting the PBR World Championship trophy in Las Vegas.
“In New York, I tell you this year everybody will know who I am,” Divino recalled saying when speaking to PBR.com Tuesday morning from his home in Amarillo, Texas. “Now I am really happy. I am so happy to make good rides and show people who I am. When I first come here (in 2018), it was hard. Everyone that comes to America has to adjust to the best bulls. The best bull riders. Everything. Interviews. It is really difficult, learning another language, but right now I feel very comfortable. I feel like I am in my home right now.”
Divino has certainly backed up those claims of making himself a household name now that the first half of the Unleash The Beast has come to a close.
Divino went 3-for-3 last weekend to win the PBR Lucas Oil Invitational, presented by U.S. Border Patrol, and conclude the first half ranked No. 7 in the world standings.
The 26-year-old is the only rider not named Jose Vitor Leme to have won multiple Unleash The Beast events this season, and he trails Leme by 458.5 points in the world standings.
Divino is used to competing with Leme for championships; Leme beat out Divino for the 2017 PBR Brazil title.
“In Brazil, before, me and Jose ride like the same,” Divino said. “So when Jose came over here, he just come and ride really good and keep riding really good. He has been No. 1 for a long time, and last year he finished in second place. Right now he is No. 1 again. I hope I can keep riding like that.”
There is no doubt that Leme will be the favorite rider to lead a team to a championship during the Monster Energy Team Challenge, which begins next month with closed-to-the-public events at the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
However, Divino’s stock is on the rise, especially with him having a few weeks off to rest a nagging riding hand injury, as a rider that may have the ability to help lead a team to victory in Las Vegas and then on Championship Weekend in Sioux Falls, South Dakota (July 10-12).
Divino, who won the Caterpillar Classic in Kansas City, Missouri, is 15-for-29 (51.72%) with two victories, two 90-point rides and five Top-10 finishes in 10 premier series events.
The Nova Crixas, Brazil, native missed three events earlier this year because of a broken riding hand.
Divino reiterated Tuesday that this injury is different from the broken hand he sustained at a Touring Pro Division event in Kearney, Nebraska, in late December.
“It is so-so, but yes, I will be ready,” Divino said about his hand. “Two weeks ago, Bullseye twisted my hand in my bull rope. It hurts in a different place than when I broke my hand. I can keep riding with my hand, so I need to just make my rope tight and it is OK.”
Divino did not let the injury slow him down physically nor, importantly, mentally at the Lazy E Arena last weekend. He selected 2019 ABBI Classic Champion Chiseled – the No. 2 bull in the YETI World Champion Bull race – with the first pick of the championship round draft, and he went on to conquer the D&H Cattle Company bovine star for 90.75 points.
The one-time PBR World Finals qualifier previously rode Eye of the Storm for 84.25 points and Buck Norris for 82.25 points.
“I know Chiseled is a really, really good bull, and sometimes if you don’t ride him really right, he is supposed to buck you off,” Divino said. “I think for me, he is really good because I watched him and study him for a long time. I have been waiting for this moment. Right now, I had a good opportunity for myself. I thought I have to pick Chiseled because I had this opportunity and he is a really good bull.
“I knew I could win with him.”
That kind of winning mindset is what two-time World Champion Justin McBride likes to see.
“Great job by Lucas,” McBride said on CBS national television. “A solid event from start to finish, but going into the championship round he picked a bull he knew nobody could catch him, and that is what you do. When you get that first pick, you go in there and take the one to seal the deal on. Lucas made a perfect ride on a really good Chiseled.”
Divino, who made his debut at the 2018 Ty Murray Invitational, added that he didn’t think Chiseled would put too much strain on his riding hand.
“No, because I know he is a really good bull and he can buck,” Divino said. “He bucks really high, so he is kind of soft. It is different. Some bulls buck really slow and then buck really strong. Chiseled is really good to get a score, really good for fans to watch him and really good for bull riders to ride him. He really bucks and is really flashy. He is the best for everything.”
Divino has taken a big step forward this year compared to his 19th-place finish last year. In 2019, he qualified for the World Finals for the first time, but he was only 21-for-65 (32.31%) on the premier series.
The Monster Energy Team Challenge is going to feature 12 teams and 48 bull riders. The each team will consist of four riders, and there will be two divisions of six teams. The Top 3 teams in each division will then qualify for Championship Weekend and a single-elimination tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on July 10-12 in front of fans.
Divino has yet to compete at the PBR Global Cup team competition, but he was teammates with Leme last year for Chad Berger’s $125,000 team challenge in Bismarck, North Dakota, which the PBR re-aired on Facebook Wednesday afternoon.
Divino was dominant in Bismarck, too, and finished second out of the 17 riders in the individual aggregate. He rode Speed Demon for 90.5 points and Midnight Rain for 90 points.
The PBR plans to announce further details about rosters, schedules and competition rules for the Monster Energy Team Challenge in the coming weeks.
“I don’t have a lot to say right now because I don’t know too much about what is supposed to happen over there,” Divino said. “Everything is really quiet, but I hope I can go there and make really good rides and try to be a champion.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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