NEW YORK – Claudio Montanha Jr. spent 14 of the 26 regular-season Unleash The Beast events in 2018 in either of the Top 2 positions in the world standings.
That was despite the fact that Montanha finished the season 12-for-41 following an impressive start to the year that saw him post a 45.83-percent riding average with two event wins.
Montanha has been unable to pinpoint exactly why he finished 2018 with a 29-percent riding percentage, but the 29-year-old did hint at fatigue being a possible reason.
“It is nothing really specific,” Montanha said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating. “I cannot explain or tell you. I did not change anything. I was riding things bull by bull and it did not work. As you go traveling down to the middle of the year, you get tired. It is a lot of traveling, but I can’t blame anyone but me.”
The third-year pro returned for the 2019 season this weekend refreshed and recharged, and he is once again back in the world title conversation.
Montanha rode Two Point Oh for 89.25 points in the championship round to conclude the Monster Energy Buck Off at The Garden, presented by Ariat, 4-for-4.
“It kind of surprised me,” Montanha said of Two Point Oh. “I thought he would feel one way and he felt totally different. He tried to get me to the front on the second jump and after that he tried to get me inside the well. I tried to stay calm and got the 8 seconds.”
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray said on CBS Sports Network he was impressed by Montanha doing what had to be done to finish the weekend with another qualified ride.
“I love seeing a guy do whatever it takes,” Murray said. “That is exactly what he is doing. He is not relying on, ‘Oh okay, the bull is going this way so I do this textbook move.’
“We used to always say, ‘Do whatever it takes.’ That is what he is doing. He is feeling for the position of where he needs to be and doing what it takes to get there. That is guts and that is try.”
Montanha earned 405 points toward the world standings for a second-place finish. He began his weekend with 86.25 points on Midnight Mystery before riding Maximum Risk (84 points) and Little Bob (84.75 points).
He trails event winner and world No. 1 Jess Lockwood by 572.5 points in the world standings heading into next weekend’s Chicago Invitational.
“It is amazing,” Montanha said. “You always come for the win, but to ride 4-for-4 shows I will be a strong competitor this year. I am going to work hard every weekend. I thank God and I think it will all work out.
“Every time you get one under your belt it gets your confidence and helps your ego.”
Montanha can also now let out a small sigh of relief knowing he has some breathing room ahead of the Unleash The Beast cutline.
He still has seven more guaranteed events before being subject to the cut based upon his fourth-place finish in the 2018 season.
“It is really great starting the year off like this, especially right now with the change in the points format for the Velocity Tour,” Montanha said. “Guys can come up here fast. We have a certain amount of events, but we have to do our best to stay and ride on top. I am just having fun.”
Montanha is now changing his focus to next weekend’s WCRA Windy City Round-up. He is competing against three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney, Derek Kolbaba, Joao Ricardo Vieira, Chance Schott and Chandler Bownds in the bull riding competition at the $1 million rodeo.
Fabiano Vieira has not decided if he will compete because of his dislocated shoulder.
Fans can watch the event on RidePass at 8 p.m. ET.
“I really like the format,” Montanha said. “I won one of the groups at the Semi-Finals in Guthrie. I like this competition.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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