PUEBLO, Colo. – Three years ago, future World Champion Kaique Pacheco had a look of concern on his face as he stood inside the South Point Arena, holding himself up with a pair of crutches.
The No. 1 bull rider in the world at the time had just torn his left MCL/PCL at the 2018 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals as he was looking to further cement his first world title following consecutive runner-up finishes.
With only three days until the 2018 PBR World Finals were to begin, there was certainly a slew of worries in the air about Pacheco’s ability to ride through the injury and hold off a surging Jose Vitor Leme.
For the next seven days, Pacheco would undergo nearly 40 hours of treatment on his left leg. He went on to put forth the gutsiest effort of his career – riding his first two bulls at the PBR World Finals to hold off Leme for the PBR’s illustrious gold buckle and $1 million.
In the years since his championship, Pacheco can remember looking at photos of himself attempting to ride in the final rounds of the 2018 PBR World Finals and see just how swollen his leg was and how it was nowhere near in the right spot to ride a 1,500-pound bull and win a world title.
“When I get on my bulls, I kept feeling more and more pain,” Pacheco told PBR.com last weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska. “The first day, I would feel some, and then the next day, I felt more pain. It kept getting swollen. I think the third and fourth round, I could not have much power in my leg. It was so hard.
“I just had to try to forget that. I needed to focus on doing my job and make my dream come true.”
This weekend, Pacheco is returning to the South Point Arena & Equestrian Center for the 2021 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals. Saturday and Sunday will be Pacheco’s first time back at the South Point since he had to crutch his way to his hotel room three years ago with his gold buckle aspirations in doubt.
This time, Pacheco is the healthy rider in the world title race trying to make a miraculous comeback and track down injured world No. 1 Leme in the world title race.
Leme, who has been out of competition since Sept. 18 with a partially torn right groin and core muscle injury, is expected to return to action on Nov. 3 for the start of the 2021 PBR World Finals.
Therefore, the Velocity Tour Finals is Pacheco’s last chance to attempt to further close the 607-point gap between himself and Leme before the reigning World Champion returns to action determined to finish off his tumultuous and historic season with a second consecutive gold buckle.
“This is an important event, like any other event at the beginning of the season,” Pacheco said. “They are all important.”
Pacheco heads to Las Vegas having ridden four of his last six bulls on the Unleash The Beast.
The 27-year-old said he won’t spend much time at all thinking about what happened in 2018 and how it could have almost cost him the world title – “That is just something that can happen at any event. You can’t worry about that.”
Instead, he will continue to focus only on the task in front of him, which will be Blue Duck for Round 1 on Saturday night. Blue Duck is 2-0 on the UTB and 4-0 overall.
Fans can watch all of the Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals exclusively on Ridepass on Pluto TV beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET.
One rider can earn a maximum of 105 points toward the world standings, including 60 for winning the event average at the two-day, three-round competition.
One could look at the final days of the 2021 season as a role reversal for Leme and Pacheco, with Pacheco now serving as the hunter, but no two injuries are the same, and no world title race truly replicates a previous one. The world points system is different today than in 2018, and Leme has a larger lead than Pacheco did in the old system.
“Maybe this year is similar and different,” Pacheco said. “The injuries between us are different, so it is hard to compare.”
EVENT STRUCTURE & POINTS FORMAT FOR THE 2021 PENDLETON WHISKY VELOCITY TOUR FINALS
The 2021 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals will consist of two long rounds and one 10-man championship round. The event winner will be based on the event average and will earn 60 world points. Round winners will earn 15 world points.
Therefore, one rider can leave the South Point with a maximum of 105 points toward the world standings.
Round Points at the Velocity Tour Finals: 15, 8, 7, 4, 3, 2, 1
Event Average Points at the Velocity Tour Finals: 60, 38, 27, 20, 16, 11, 5
The 2021 PWVT Finals will pay $80,000 in prize money, not including the 2021 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Champion Bonus ($50,000). Round winners will earn $3,200, and winning the 2021 Velocity Tour Finals will be worth $18,480.
Article courtesy of the PBR
Photo By: Andy Watson/ Bull Stock Media