By: Darci Miller
PUEBLO, Colo. – Following an unprecedented slate of events, the first half of the 2020 Unleash The Beast has drawn to a close.
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, a number of events were cancelled or postponed, but the PBR soldiered on with four events that were closed to the public, ending the first half of the season under extraordinary circumstances.
But the action has been as rank as ever. While world No. 1 Jose Vitor Leme has been nearly unstoppable, 2020 has already seen more lead changes atop the world standings than there were in the entirety of 2019.
Read on to relive the first 13 winning rides of 2020, and stay tuned as the PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge kicks off in June.
1. Joao Ricardo Vieira – 87.25 points on Bezerk, New York City
Joao Ricardo Vieira finished the 2019 season ranked No. 4 in the world, and he picked up right where he left off when the 2020 season began. At the season-opening Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden in New York City, Vieira went 4-for-4 for the event victory. His championship round ride aboard Bezerk earned 87.25 points, and he overtook the world No. 1 ranking for the first time since 2015.
2. Daylon Swearingen – 91.75 points on Big Black, Chicago
Daylon Swearingen had a strong debut season in 2019 – winning the PBR Canada title and becoming the youngest bull rider ever to qualify for both the PBR World Finals and the NFR in the same season – but his first Unleash The Beast win came at the Chicago Invitational in 2020. He went 3-for-3 with a 91.75-point ride on Big Black in the championship round to earn the win. Swearingen has continued to excel since then, and is currently ranked No. 4 in the world.
3. Jess Lockwood – 92.25 points on Big Black, Manchester
The two-time and reigning World Champion stepped up for his first event win of 2020 in Manchester, New Hampshire, at the Manchester Invitational. Lockwood’s 3-for-3 performance included two consecutive 90-point round-winning rides, capped off with a 92.25-point ride on Big Black in the championship round, and propelled him to the world No. 1 ranking.
4. Jose Vitor Leme – 91 points on Rising Sun, Sacramento
In 2019, Jose Vitor Leme finished a heartbreaking No. 2 in the world for the second consecutive season. In Round 2 of the 2019 PBR World Finals, Leme slapped Danny Boy, which ultimately became the reason he was unable to win the world title. In Sacramento in 2020, Leme exorcised some of his demons when he rode Danny Boy in Round 3 for 87.75 points. He would go on to ride Rising Sun for 91 points in the championship round to secure his first event win of the new season.
5. Jose Vitor Leme – 92 points on Bullseye, Oklahoma City
Leme reclaimed the world No. 1 ranking for the first time since the last day of the 2019 season with a fifth-place finish in Round 1 in Oklahoma City, and it only got better from there. He went 3-for-3 with a 92-point ride aboard Bullseye in the championship round to earn his second consecutive event victory. With five round wins in the last eight outs at the time, he took an 81-point lead over Lockwood in the world standings.
6. Cole Melancon – 89.75 points on Spotted Demon, Los Angeles
Cole Melancon spent most of the last few years focusing on his rodeo career, but he decided in 2020 to make a full-time push in the PBR. He made his premier series debut at Iron Cowboy in Los Angeles and promptly proceeded to make history as just the second rookie to win a PBR Major. Melancon rode Spotted Demon in Round 4 – as a last-minute injury replacement when Ryan Dirteater had to withdraw– which would ultimately secure him the victory.
7. Jose Vitor Leme – 88.75 points on Night Shift, St. Louis
Leme’s start to 2020 isn’t just one of the best of his career – it’s one of the best in PBR history. With his third event win of the season in St. Louis, Leme improved his riding percentage to 80% when he went 4-for-4. With his 88.75-point ride on Night Shift, he secured the world No. 1 ranking for the second time this season.
8. Lucas Divino – 91 points on Medicine Man, Kansas City
Lucas Divino made his premier series debut in 2018, and though it took him almost two years to earn his first event victory, it was worth the wait. Divino went 3-for-3 to win the Caterpillar Classic in Kansas City, riding Medicine Man for a career-best 91 points in the championship round.
9. Ramon de Lima – 90.5 points on Big Black, Little Rock
The last two years haven’t been the most kind to Ramon de Lima. He was in world title contention when he won his last premier series event in 2018, but struggled mightily in 2019 and was cut from the premier series in Little Rock. In 2020, however, Lima returned to Little Rock and emerged with the event victory, going 3-for-3 with a 90.5-point ride on Big Black in the championship round.
10. Dener Barbosa – 91 points on Bullseye, Duluth
The 2016 PBR Brazil champion had world title aspirations in 2018, but a broken foot and subsequent offseason shoulder surgery derailed his hopes and saw him cut from the premier series in 2019. Barbosa appears to be back in form in 2020, however, winning the Gwinnett Invitational in Duluth, Georgia, with a 3-for-3 performance. He rode Bullseye for 91 points in the championship round, and improved to No. 6 in the world standings.
11. Fabiano Vieira – 89.5 points on Bullseye, Guthrie
At the first closed-to-fans Unleash The Beast event at the Lazy E Arena in Oklahoma, Fabiano Vieira proved that age is just a number. Vieira won the Las Vegas Invitational with a 3-for-3 performance, becoming the fourth-oldest rider ever to win a premier series event. His 89.5-point ride on Bullseye in the championship round helped propel him to No. 9 in the world standings.
12. Jose Vitor Leme – 90 points on I’m Legit Too, Guthrie
After just 12 events in 2020, Leme already has more event wins than he did in the entire 2019 season. The Brazilian phenom won his fourth event of the season at the Cooper Tires Invitational, going 3-for-3 with a 90-point ride on I’m Legit Too in the championship round. Leme now leads the PBR in event wins (4), qualified rides (25) and riding percentage (73.53%), and is tied with Lockwood for most round wins (8).
13. Lucas Divino – 90.75 points on Chiseled, Guthrie
In the final Unleash The Beast event of the first half, Divino became just the second rider to win more than one event this season. Divino went 3-for-3, including a 90.75-point ride on Chiseled in the championship round, to take the victory and improve to No. 7 in the world standings.
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