By: James Youness
PUEBLO, Colo. — Even just one weekend away from the world’s grittiest sport allows us all to realize how much we each have going on in our busy lives.
The brief break created time for fans, riders themselves and even tour personnel to spend time with their families, reflect on the holiday season and be thankful for those we surround ourselves with.
From trips home to Brazil and rider gatherings in Texas to FaceTime chats and in some cases even postcards, riders spent the last 12-plus days outside of their traditional job responsibilities.
But when the world’s most electric live sporting event returns to action this weekend in Albany, New York, during Unleash The Beast’s fifth event of the 2024 season, it’s all about getting back to the grindstone for the 40 best riders in the world.
Well, maybe the Top 55 or so, as several of the industry’s top talents have either opted out to extend their holiday break or will miss this weekend’s showdown due to injury.
With guys like Jose Vitor Leme, Sage Kimzey, Cody Jesus, Joao Ricardo Vieira, John Crimber and company set to miss with doctor’s notes, Brazilian natives in No. 2 Alan de Souza, three-time World Champion Silvano Alves and Vitor Losnake will be out as they are still down south spending time at home.
That won’t stop veterans like Eduardo Aparecido and Kaique Pacheco from donning their best Santa Claus acts, primed to give out the gift of rank rides inside MVP Arena beginning Friday night.
Just two weekends ago, when Pacheco made his 2024 debut, he returned to action with a flawless 3-for-3 record en route to claiming the No. 10 overall rank despite missing the first three events of the season. He’ll look to build on his perfect start, beginning with a Friday night dance atop Tucker.
Meanwhile for Fast Eddy, he’s set to bring his No. 5 rank into Albany courtesy of his 4-for-9 start to the season, which includes some spicy round-winning action, as the 33-year-old continues to put his best boot forward while competing with youngsters up to 15 years younger than himself.
Set to be challenged by Sandman Friday night, the veteran will look to defend his Top 5 ranking with another favorable showing.
Fresh off capturing his career-first premier series event buckle when the tour was last in session, Australian sensation Brady Fielder has to be among the favorites to produce heading into Albany. Posting an event-best 3-for-3 performance in Manchester, New Hampshire, it’s rides like his title-clinching go aboard UTZ BesTex Smokestack that quickly reminded spectators how potent the 24-year-old can be.
Speaking of standouts, 2022 PBR Canada Champion Nick Tetz will make his 2024 premier series debut Friday night, primed to dance with Heater during his first stateside action since competing with the Arizona Ridge Riders at the 2023 PBR Camping World Teams Championship.
Regardless of who’s inside MVP Arena this weekend, the event officially begins the intense winter slate, with 20 events separating the tour from the 2024 PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast, where the 2024 PBR World Champion will be crowned.
In a sport where health and availability continue to reign supreme, riders will need to keep their bodies in tip-top shape while hoping to navigate the perils of injury and stress. With so many guys out of the lineup this weekend, it presents quite the opportunity for alternate riders and anybody, really, as points earned today are just as valuable as points earned during World Finals.
With the 2024 Unleash The Beast season set to continue in Albany, New York, Friday, Dec. 29, let’s take a look at who’s drawing into the lineup during this weekend’s PBR Albany:
ROUND 1 MATCHUPS
Luciano De Castro vs. Boo Man
Kaiden Loud vs. Boo Ray
*Nick Tetz vs. Heater
Jake Morinec vs. Honky Tonk
Trace Redd vs. Fort Knox
Kyler Oliver vs. Cooties
Ezekiel Mitchell vs. Magic Trick
Daylon Swearingen vs. Spice
Leonardo Castro Ferreira vs. Smoked Down
Flavio Zivieri vs. Magic Harbor
Andrew Alvidrez vs. King Pen
Eli Vastbinder vs. Shazam
Mauricio Gulla Moreira vs. All In
Rafael dos Santos vs. Plumber Man
Conner Halverson vs. Martins Maniac
Alex Cerqueira vs. Squealin’ Cat
Ednelio Almeida vs. High Plains Drifter
Keyshawn Whitehorse vs. Candy Man
Wyatt Rogers vs. Live Wire
Dalton Kasel vs. Bad Spider
Jesse Petri vs. Shew Bubby
*Lucas Divino vs. Crossover
*Guilherme Valleiras vs. Devaronian
Wingson Henrique da Silva vs. Trouble Maker
Boudreaux Campbell vs. My Buddy Taco
Julio Cesar Marques vs. West Coast
Brady Oleson vs. Buster
Braidy Randolph vs. Bangarang
Felipe Furlan vs. Recall
Koltin Hevalow vs. Old School Cool
Bob Mitchell vs. Hacksaw
Paulo Eduardo Rossetto vs. Mongo
Kaique Pacheco vs. Tucker
Leonardo Lima vs. South Point Dance Monkey
Caden Bunch vs. Cash Goblin
Austin Richardson vs. Martini Houdini
Eduardo Aparecido vs. Sandman
Brady Fielder vs. Little Hornet
Cassio Dias vs. Nighttime Crime
* denotes a rematch
OUT BECAUSE OF INJURY/OTHER
Jose Vitor Leme
Joao Ricardo Vieira
Joao Lucas Campos
Alan de Souza
ROUND 1 REMATCHES
Guilherme Valleiras vs. Devaronian (82.25 points in Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
Lucas Divino vs. Crossover (3.59 seconds in Arlington, Texas; 5.34 seconds in Kansas City,
Missouri; 5.83 seconds in Lincoln, Nebraska)
Nick Tetz vs. Heater (4.48 seconds in Albuquerque, New Mexico)
CASSIO DIAS BRINGS 147.5-POINT LEAD INTO ALBANY
Racking up an outstanding 344 points throughout the premier series’ first four events of the season, Cassio Dias seemed rather unstoppable through the first three. But after capturing consecutive UTB event titles (including his first-ever in St. Louis and second in Johnstown, Pennsylvania), the talented Brazilian turned in an uncharacteristic 0-for-2 showcase in Manchester, New Hampshire. Bucking off Coolio in less than four seconds, he was later dispatched by Dirty Sancho in Round 2, forced into an early exit for the first time all season. Prior to the slow showing, he was 9-for-10 on the season, so his 9-for-12 start to his rookie season on the world’s biggest stage is still quite the historic start. Drawing comparisons to Jose Vitor Leme for the past few months, who’s set to miss PBR Albany, he’d be wise to find the whistle Friday night when he dances with Nighttime Crime inside MVP Arena.
NICK TETZ SET TO MAKE 2024 UTB DEBUT FRIDAY NIGHT Since turning in a welcomed 10-for-25 effort to conclude his first season of PBR Camping World Team Series action with the Arizona Ridge Riders, Nick Tetz completed his 2023 PBR Canada run by going a combined 6-for-8 during the international series’ final two events of the season. Turning in a third-place finish at the Mazergroup PBR, which marked the second-to-last of the season, Tetz then went 3-for-4 during the 2023 PBR Canada National Finals to put a cap on his stunning 34-for-50 record on the year. Primed to begin his 2024 Unleash The Beast campaign during a matchup with Heater Friday night, one of the trendiest riders in the sport can make up his late start to the season quickly with a big weekend in Albany.
FOLLOW ALONG The two-day, three-round showcase inside Albany, New York’s MVP Arena is set to begin Friday, Dec. 29 at 7:45 p.m. EST with Round 1 airing live via RidePass on Pluto TV. Fans can catch the final 15 competitors from Friday’s round broadcast on CBS Television Network on Saturday, Dec. 30 starting at 12:30 p.m. EST. Round 2 and the ensuing Championship go are slated to begin Saturday, Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. EST and will later be broadcast on CBS Sports Network Sunday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m. EST.
Fans can stay tuned to PBR.com and PBR social media channels throughout the weekend for the latest scores, wrecks, injury updates and beyond as Unleash The Beast prepares to invade Albany during the fourth event of the 2024 season!
Photo courtesy of Todd Brewer/Bull Stock Media
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