By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – The only evidence of how tired Junior Patrik Souza was last Sunday in Ocala, Florida, was the dark bags under his eyelids.
Souza, though, did not feel physically too tired following his 2-for-2 competition victory on the second day of the PBR Monster Energy Invitational, even though he had just ridden four bulls in two different time zones in a span of 18 hours.
The 27-year-old was fueled by nothing more than caffeine and a desire to ride alongside the best bull riders in the world.
“The drive to win and to be here with the best is all I care about right now,” Souza said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I didn’t even think about how tired I was, or where I was, or if I had any sleep, or if I was hungry. It didn’t matter. I just wanted to be here and have that shot.”
Souza capitalized on his opportunity on both the Unleash The Beast and Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour levels this past weekend and heads into this weekend’s Pendleton Whisky Invitational in Arcadia, Florida, as the No. 2 bull rider in the world.
Souza was originally competing last weekend in Cedar Park, Texas, at the 2021 Pendleton Whisky Tour’s season-opener. The event was slated for a 7 p.m. CT start, but Souza had gotten word from the PBR’s competition department that he would likely have a bull waiting for him in Ocala, Florida, Sunday at the Unleash The Beast: American Roots Edition tour level following injuries to World Champions Jess Lockwood and Jose Vitor Leme.
What ensued next was a wild 18 hours.
First, Souza had to finish up the Cedar Park event, and he did so with momentum on his side. He would ride Mic Drop for 88 points to tie with J.T. Moore for the Round 2 victory. Souza then capped his Cedar Park weekend by riding Mongoose for 82 points and finished Cedar Park 2-for-3 and in fourth place.
Next, Souza had to rush to the locker room around 10:30 p.m. ET (9:30 p.m. local) and pack up his gear bag and run to his car. Souza and his girlfriend, Katie, then made a 4-hour drive back home to Chico, Texas.
Souza quickly hopped in the shower once he got home, tossed a new set of clothes into his bag, and the couple made a mad dash and one-hour drive to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for his 6 a.m. flight to Orlando International Airport.
The second-year pro landed around 9:30 a.m. following the brief flight and then had four-and-a-half hours to grab his luggage from baggage claim, get a rental car and make the hour-and-a-half drive north to Ocala, Florida.
Souza’s travel schedule had no wiggle room, but all things went his way. He made it to the Southeastern Livestock Pavilion with plenty of time to get situated at the arena and ready to compete on the PBR’s premier level.
“I have not slept at all,” Souza said nonchalantly. “I had to drive home from Cedar Park, shower, grab clothes and fly here. This is OK.”
In Ocala, Souza jumped at the opportunity to replace Leme in the draw.
Souza rode Slingin Tears for 86 points in the long round before conquering Homegrown for 88.25 points in the championship round.
Sunday was only the second time Homegrown has been ridden on the premier series in 12 outs. The other rider to reach 8 seconds? Leme – the same guy Souza replaced in the draw.
Souza then looked on as Dalton Kasel, Cooper Davis, Joao Ricardo Vieira and Cole Melancon all bucked off to clinch him the competition victory.
Mauricio Moreira edged Souza for the overall event win with 130 world points to 109.
Souza, though, only trails Moreira by 6.5 points in the world standings heading into Round 1 of the Pendleton Whisky Invitational this weekend courtesy of his double-duty showing last weekend.
He has drawn Not Today (1-1, UTB) for Round 1, which airs on CBS Sports Network beginning at 9 p.m. ET. RidePass will cover the event live at 2 p.m. ET.
VELOCITY TOUR HEADS TO GREENVILLE, SOUTH CAROLINA
The Velocity Tour takes center focus Friday night with the Greenville Invitational on Friday and Saturday in South Carolina. Round 1 airs Friday at 8 p.m. ET exclusively on RidePass.
Greenville will be an opportunity for Paulo Lima to try to overtake the No. 1 ranking in the Velocity Tour standings and earn the PWVT season-leader invite to the PBR Coors Banquet Invitational in Okeechobee, Florida.
Beginning in Okeechobee on Jan. 30-31, every Unleash The Beast event will feature the No. 1 rider in the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour standings, even if he is not seeded on tour.
Lima heads into Greenville only 28.17 points behind Velocity leader J.T. Moore, who will be riding in Arcadia this weekend as an alternate and not on the Velocity Tour. No. 2 Kyle Jones and No. 3 Souza also are riding in Arcadia and will not be in Greenville.
One rider can earn a maximum of 51 world points in Greenville.
Moore will also be riding in Okeechobee even if he were to lose the No. 1 ranking in the Velocity Tour as the Okeechobee weekend’s PWVT event winner invite goes to the Cedar Park winner.
Top-5 Velocity Tour Standings
1. J.T. Moore (40.5 points)*
2. Kyle Jones (-11 points)*
3. Junior Patrik Souza (-26 points)*
4. Paulo Lima (-28.17 points)
5. Leonardo Lima (-31.5 points)
*Not riding in Greenville this weekend because of UTB draw spot
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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