The Pendelton Whisky Velocity Tour event in Portland, ME this weekend may be the most important and significant in the history of the PBR’s expansion tour.
With 270 points available over the two-day event, Portland is likely to play a role in just which bull rider is crowned the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) World Champion at World Finals on November, 10th inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The points system used by the PBR is a “global points system” – all points earned at any level in the PBR count towards world standings. That means on weekends when the elite series – The Unleash The Beast – is off, there’s still very important bull riding happening.
The stakes get even bigger in crunch time – those frantic weeks leading up to World Finals (Nov. 6-10) at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
This weekend, with only three more regular-season events remaining on the elite series schedule, the top four riders in the world – Jose Vitor Leme, Jess Lockwood, Chase Outlaw and Joao Ricardo Viera – are all scheduled to compete at this Velocity Tour event.
In fact, 16 of the top 35 in the world are competing in Portland.
“The changes PBR made this season giving Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour events more points towards world standings has made the tour integral to the championship race,” said PBR CEO Sean Gleason. “This weekend’s star-studded lineup in Portland is a must-see bull riding for any fan.”
The unfolding PBR world championship race is one of the most interesting in the 26-year history of the sport. What has made the race so interesting is not only only the three radically different personalities trading ride for ride in vying for the million-dollar bonus and gold buckle given to be given in Las Vegas early November but how often Jess Lockwood, Chase Outlaw and Jose Vitor Leme- with a slim margin separating first, second and third place.
In fact, as few as 40 points to only a couple hundred points separated first from second until recently. This past weekend Jose Vitor Leme the current World No. 1 bull rider was able to open the lead to 1,026 points after leaving Fairfax, VA with 205 world points courtesy of a 2-3 showing placing him fourth overall at the event and widening his lead.
Leme has won all three Velocity Tour events he’s entered this year in Corpus Christi, Texas, Dayton, Ohio, and Window Rock, Arizona. The former Brazilian soccer star will be a force to be reckoned with this weekend.
The rider currently ranked third in the world, Chase Outlaw, just may play Jose’s spoiler, starting in Portland.
Outlaw (his real name) has as much momentum as personality heading into Portland’s event this weekend.
The Arkansas cowboy was able to to win the US Border Patrol Invitational right outside the nation’s Capital last weekend, and while he may have gained points with that victory, his cut into the world lead was limited due to Leme winning rounds and finishing fourth.
Chase, who was called the “toughest athlete in sports” by USA Today after breaking his face in 30 places in July 2018 in Cheyenne, Wyoming and coming back to ride 74 days later – with 11 plates and 68 screws in his face – is taking the momentum of the Fairfax victory into Portland. Outlaw is more focused than he’s ever been in his career, and he has set his personal goal for 2019 to be the World Champion.
If Chase has a technically sound, high-scoring weekend like in Fairfax, he will be playing spoiler to the other riders and may be the rider to watch heading into World Finals.
The rider ranked second in the world, Jess Lockwood who was the youngest champion in PBR when winning the world in 2017 at the age of 20 is coming to Portland’s event with fire in his eyes and the desire to reclaim his second gold buckle.
In a sport that can be streaky and unforgiving, Jess has four event wins at PBR’s elite Unleash The Beast series this year but has gone cold of late. He left Fairfax without getting a qualified ride during either of the two long rounds of the event.
Yet, Jess, who had been sidelined for a good chunk of the season after breaking his collarbone at the PBR Global Cup in February, still has a stellar riding percentage of 63%, which is like a major league hitter batting near .400. This past weekend’s performance is almost sure to seriously bother the former high school wrestling star, perhaps giving him the mental boost needed to win the event and gain valuable points and ground on Jose before the Unleash The Beast season picks back up in Minneapolis, MN.
Jess is a perfectionist; he will be fired up about his weak performance last weekend and seeking to get rides down and gain on the current world leader.
One other rider to consider a real contender to play spoiler is world No. 4 Joao Ricardo Viera. The likable Brazilian has progressed a great deal over this year. Joao had been a one-dimensional rider who struggled greatly with bulls that bucked away from his hand. He spent time working on that and is now a lot better at riding these bulls. He also had success in Fairfax and is coming to Portland looking to win this event and get smack back into the world title hint. He might also be looking to improve on his riding from Fairfax which may have garnered him some points but was not a perfect weekend for him. Like Jess Lockwood, Joao needs to ride every bull at this Velocity Tour event.
The points available in Portland cannot be overstated in importance to these four riders.
Leme has been on fire in the second half, widening what has been a very tight race for the World Championship. All indications are Portland will play a large role in the overall picture of who becomes World Champion in 2019. These four are going to bring their A-game to Portland this weekend and it’s going to be fun to watch.
If fans are unable to attend this event in Portland, ME and still would like to watch the event, PBR will be broadcasting the event live exclusively on its subscription digital network, RidePass, starting 8:00 P.M. EST on Friday, September 27th and 6:00 P.M. EST on Saturday, September, 28th.
This will be a great event and RidePass coverage is like watching PBR on CBS on your phone or compute. It’s a bull riding event you will not want to miss to see who gets the valuable points and championship buckle from Portland, ME.