Busting out of the chutes in a unique team spirit at the opening weekend of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Monster Energy Team Challenge at South Point Arena in Las Vegas, PBR bull riders gave it their all during three consecutive ‘live’ bull riding televised weekend match-ups June 6, 7, and 8; with ‘Team Cooper Tires’ and ‘Team Las Vegas’ both ending up 3-0 and running neck and neck. World No. 1 bull rider Jose Vitor Leme of Ribas do Rio Pardo, Brazil dominated Team Cooper Tires performance going head-to-head against three-time PBR World Champion Silvano Alves of Pilar do Sul, Brazil and Team Union Home Mortgage, which went into the showdown with a 1-1 record.
At the Pendleton Whisky Let ‘Er Buck Saloon at South Point Arena in Las Vegas, Leme rode The Tickler; a bull owned by partners Dakota Rodeo-Chad Berger/Clay Struve/Ken Barnhard for 88.5 points. “All the rides are very important for us,” Jose Vitor Leme said on CBS following Team Cooper Tires’ first PBR Team challenge. “There are a lot of good teams, and I am so grateful for these guys to help my team win today.”
Hosting the team challenge was a first for almost everyone, but for 9x PBR Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger, just being AT the event was ultimately a very emotional ‘ride’ in his life, this year.
Livestockwx.com’s Amy Hadachek interviewed Chad the next morning, after the sensory overload three-day weekend. When asked what Berger thought of the performances of his bulls; The Tickler and Rising Sun… “I thought they did okay,” he said. Pausing, a range of emotions kicked in for the nine-time PBR Stock Contractor of the year.
“I was pretty much under the weather from surgery I had…and still am, but I was happy to see any of my bulls buck. Red Dawn was the best bull there – by far. I really enjoyed watching it, because I didn’t know if I WOULD GET to watch anymore. Just a lot of emotion,” acknowledged Berger…pausing…“and I was really proud of Red Dawn. Yes; they’re still gonna have to deal with me for awhile…that’s what we get up in the morning for – to be the best we can.”
Just putting on this event – was an impressive feat. “I want to thank Sean Gleason (who has served as CEO and Commissioner of the PBR since 2015) and the PBR for working so hard so the riders and bull owners can make the money. They made it a little easier for us to get through this (COVID-19 pandemic.) It would’ve been a lot easier for him to walk away and say this is too hard.
He kept going up to the plate and kept going til he hit a grand slam…to make sure we got to go to Guthrie (Oklahoma,) and now to Vegas and it took a lot of hard work,” said Berger. “It takes a special kind of kind of guy to do that, and get it done.”
Then we asked Chad, “Since this is also a livestock AND weather website…how has weather impacted handling bulls?…and their feed in Las Vegas?…”
“We put shade up, you don’t want to get them too hot out there,” Berger responded, adding, “We keep them on a lighter ration, and you gotta know how to take care of your animals. Don’t get your feed too hot…take less of the corn and barley which makes them too hot. In the wintertime back up in North Dakota, you use a lot of corn to keep them warm, but in summer you don’t,” noted Berger. Having access to shade and airflow and cool, clean water is vital.
At least Las Vegas weather was fairly cooperative for both the bulls and stock contractors, while hauling the bovines. Saturday evening – during the PBR Team Challenge, temperatures were warm; in the mid 80’s but the dewpoint (the measure of moisture content) was in the upper 30’s, so at least it wasn’t humid or uncomfortable for the bulls. The wind was, a bit of a challenge at times; out of the south/southwest at 25 mph and gusting to 33 mph most of the early evening Saturday.
By Sunday morning, bull riders arrived at the arena, greeted by 70-degrees outside with a 35-degree dewpoint which made the dry air very pleasant, and the wind had calmed down considerably with a south wind at just 6 miles an hour.
Meanwhile, Day 3 inside the bucking chutes was ‘touch and go’ for awhile, as Luciano de Castro of Guzolandia, Brazil, of Team Union Home Mortgage tied-up the score as he also earned 88.5-points riding the bull Rising Sun, also owned by Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger/Struve/Heald Pro Bulls.
Then, six-time PRCA Bull Riding Champion Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Oklahoma of Team Cooper Tires, despite injuring his right riding arm the previous day/Saturday, rode the bull Big Mac, owned by Hodges/Shuler, for 87.25 points; and Team Cooper Tires.
“On paper, we are the favorites,” Sage Kimzey said on CBS during the PBR Team Challenge. “There is a target on our back and that is a position I like to be in. We are Number one and that is the position everyone wants to be in.”
So, with a 175.75-88.5 victory (over Team Union Home Mortgage,) Team Cooper Tires concluded the first weekend of competition a flawless 3-0, remaining atop the Division A leader-board. There were rave reviews about the leadership of Jose Vitor Leme, with every bull rider looking up to Jose, who is still in control of the Built Ford Tough MVP race.
Also on Day 3, with a 3-0 lead, reigning PRCA All-Around Champion and Captain Stetson Wright of Milford, Utah propelled Team Las Vegas after his 87.5-point ride on the bull Dynamite Cap owned by stock contractor/former bull rider J.W. Hart Cattle Co./Randy Wood. Then, Chase Dougherty of Canby, Oregon had a 87.25-point ride aboard Silent Night, also owned by Hart Cattle Co./Randy Wood. The 174.75-0 win (against Team Wrangler) allowed Team Las Vegas to maintain their No. 2 rank in Division A.
Team Cooper Tires will look to earn its fourth win against Team Wrangler on Challenge Day 4 on Friday, June 12. Team Las Vegas will next go head-to-head against Team Can-Am on Challenge Day 4 on Friday, June 12.
The PBR Monster Energy Team Challenge continues each weekend ‘live’ on the CBS Sports Network, but without fans due to COVID-19. Each Sunday in June, the third game of the broadcast is the ‘Game of the Week.’ As such, the telecast moves from CBS Sports Network to CBS. Then, the top three teams from each division; as decided by the games in Las Vegas, will compete in July before fans in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center.
The excitement is mounting this month with the countdown underway to have fans in the stands again; next month. We asked Chad Berger, if he was looking forward to seeing the fans again – in South Dakota in July?
“You ain’t kidding…I’m ready. There were a few times – I wanted to see my grand kids.” There’s no doubt now; he gets to see them…and all the fans who will be waiting to appreciate the cowboys, and give Berger; in his healing; a grand show of support.