PUEBLO, Colo. – In the 1960s, construction of the Gateway Arch began in downtown St. Louis. The 630-foot stainless steel arch is the tallest in the world and the tallest man-made monument in the Western Hemisphere.
The Gateway Arch is a nod to the westward expansion of the United States and the pioneer spirit of the men and women, including Lewis and Clark, which aspired to discover the unconquered beauty of the western United States in the late 1770s.
Over 200 years later, Brazilian bull rider Kaique Pacheco is embarking upon his own journey across the United States in hopes of achieving glory with a PBR World Championship.
It was in St. Louis in 2015 that Pacheco won his first Built Ford Tough Series event, and this past weekend Pacheco picked up his first victory of 2017.
“I am very excited to win this event again because when I first come to the Built Ford Tough this was the first event I won,” Pacheco said with the help of Guilherme Marchi translating.
The 2015 Rookie of the Year has since become a PBR Brazilian superstar, following in the footsteps of Brazilian pioneers Adriano Moraes, Marchi, Renato Nunes and Silvano Alves.
Pacheco was the face of Netflix’s “Fearless” documentary last year, and he has finished runner-up in the world title race in each of his first two seasons.
So what is the difference from the Pacheco of 2015 to the current one that stepped atop the shark cage in St. Louis?
“I am more experienced now,” Pacheco said. “I am stronger. Each event I go to, I get more experience. I am getting strong every week. It is more experience with the bulls. I know more of the bulls now. I am preparing myself more at home. I have more confidence in myself. Working out and seeing the videos of what I do wrong.”
Pacheco has been nearly perfect in St. Louis during his three-year career. He has gone 11-for-14 with two victories and two second-place finishes in 15/15 Bucking Battles.
The 22-year-old’s knowledge of bulls paid off for him on Sunday afternoon when he became the first rider to reach 8 seconds on Lester Gillis (88.75 points) to earn the event victory.
Pacheco had never attempted Lester Gillis, but he had studied the bull’s trips against fellow Brazilian’s Eduardo Aparecido and Paulo Lima.
He was the only rider to cover his bull the championship round, and Pacheco’s 4-for-4 performance (640 world points) in St. Louis rocketed him to No. 3 in the world standings.
But even beyond the numerical or monetary gains Pacheco made in St. Louis, Pacheco also showed something else in St. Louis.
Pacheco proved he has the ability to fight through a nagging injury and still compete at a high level.
“It is kind of hard when you get hurt because you don’t have that same strength during the week,” Pacheco said. “I tried to stay strong and I tried to be 100 percent. I tried to not think about too much or the pain in my groin. I just tried to be strong and healthy. I kept doing exercises to get better and better.”
Pacheco, who began wrapping his groins with an ACE bandage, had been slowed in recent weeks by a groin/pelvis injury he sustained in Oklahoma City attempting to ride Losing My Religion.
By no means was his injury as serious as Jess Lockwood’s torn groin or Cooper Davis’ broken clavicle last year, but it was another small example of Pacheco’s ability to block out any distraction, both physical or mental, as he tries to win his first world title.
Alves believes Pacheco when the young bull rider says he is a stronger rider in 2017 than when he first arrived in the United States.
He also knows Pacheco hasn’t been 100 percent for the majority of the season.
“I know he is hurt,” Alves said. “It is not really bad, but it affected his concentration a little sometimes. Now he is getting better, better and better. He is like 85 percent. It is good. It is very important for him because he has more confidence right now. Sometimes his movement was no good because it hurt, but right now he has rode better. His confidence is getting better and better.”
No bull rider is going to make it through an entire season healthy.
The odds are simply not in any rider’s favor. Therefore, it is extremely important for riders to take advantage of opportunities even when they are not fully healthy.
“I was not frustrated about it,” Pacheco said. “I just need to keep getting better and better every time. I am happy to win this event because the past couple of weeks I was feeling pain in my groin a little bit. I am getting better. I have been getting some treatment at home.
“There is less pain now and I am riding better.”
Pacheco is within 580 points of Aparecido, the current world leader, and can leave this coming weekend’s Jacksonville Invitational as the new No. 1.
“He just needs to do the same thing and change nothing,” Alves said.
Still, Pacheco says he isn’t satisfied.
Quite frankly, he can’t be, or else he may come up short of a world title for a third consecutive season.
“We are never 100 percent,” Pacheco concluded. “What happened these past two years, I am trying to get better and better. I have learned the bulls. I learn with the cowboys. I learn about the rules in the PBR. I try to be strong, concentrate more and ride better.
“I know I can be more perfect.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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