SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Kaique Pacheco sat in the corner of the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour locker room last weekend in Biloxi, Mississippi, when he turned to his left and let out a roar of laughter as he was engaged in an animated conversation with Luciano de Castro.
Pacheco – the runner-up in the last two PBR world title races – has already become a battle-tested PBR veteran in just two years, while Castro – the 2015 PBR Brazil champion – and Dener Barbosa – the 2016 PBR Brazil champion – are aspiring to join Pacheco on the illustrious Built Ford Tough Series this year.
The laughing and vocal Pacheco was a rarity back during his rookie year in 2015.
At the time, Pacheco was a quiet student of the game. He would let 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi and three-time World Champion Silvano Alves do the majority of his talking and he kept quiet inside the locker room.
By the end of 2015, Pacheco was comfortable with the veteran BFTS locker room, and in 2016 Pacheco evolved into a stronger bull rider and more outgoing person.
Still, it has to be nice for the 22-year-old bull rider to have some of his Brazilian peers closer to his age next to him in the locker room?
Castro is 20 years old, while Barbosa is 22.
“I am friends with Dener and Luciano, but I was always comfortable with Guilherme, Silvano and those guys,” Pacheco said in Biloxi.
Pacheco and Castro are tentatively scheduled to compete at Saturday night’s Velocity event at the Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, at 7 p.m. CT.
Other top riders scheduled to tentatively compete include Alves, 2016 Velocity Tour Champion Chase Outlaw, 2015 Velocity Tour Champion Gage Gay, 2014 Rookie of the Year J.W. Harris, Matt Triplett and Fabiano Vieira.
Depending on how Castro and Barbosa’s development goes in 2017 – neither Castro or Barbosa have qualified for the 2017 BFTS season – the trio may become the leaders of a new wave of Brazilian bull riders when Marchi and Robson Palermo one day decide to retire from the PBR.
“Dener and Luciano ride very good,” Pacheco said, “They have potential to be good and stay here, but they still have to adjust. If we can be like Renato, Valdiron, Guilherme, Fabiano and Silvano that would be good, but we have to work.”
Pacheco had seen the two riders at bull ridings in Brazil as a teenager, but he has since become better friends with the two, especially Castro, since they arrived in the United States prior to the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Barbosa and Castro are still unproven commodities, but expectations for Pacheco will be high in 2017.
How will the third-year pro respond from back-to-back bridesmaid finishes?
Well, he has responded pretty well so far.
Pacheco has ridden his first four bulls at the Velocity Tour level and tied for the event victory with 18-year-old Koal Livingston in Hidalgo, Texas.
“It was good to get a win, but my mind and confidence was OK after Vegas,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee are the only two riders that finished in the Top 15 of the 2016 world standings to nod their head in competition so far in 2017.
The majority of the top riders from 2016 have opted to rest in preparation for the BFTS season-opener in New York (Jan. 6-8), while Pacheco has decided to get right back after it.
In fact, Lee (152) and Pacheco (129) had the most outs among Top 10 bull riders in 2016.
“Points are important,” said Pacheco, referencing last year’s World Finals. “These points are small, but they are still points.”
Last year, Pacheco finished 488.42 points behind 2016 World Champion Cooper Davis in the closest three-rider world title race in PBR history.
“I know this wasn’t my time,” Pacheco said. “It was not now, but God has a plan. I am OK waiting. My time is coming soon.”
Pacheco can take solace in the fact that Marchi posted three consecutive second-place finishes before winning the 2008 World Championship.
However, Pacheco likely doesn’t need any confidence boosting. He hasn’t appeared mentally discouraged nor motivated by anger or frustration in 2017.
Pacheco seems just as confident and steely cold as he did during his superstar rise during the past two seasons.
“I don’t think about how losing helps,” Pacheco said in regards to any added motivation for this season. “I just think about riding bulls and getting to work.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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