BILLINGS - The big boys of bull riding are back in Montana next Friday with a familiar cowboy in charge -- and one that's certainly comfortable in Billings.
Jose Vitor Leme won this stop when the tour was last here in September. That helped catapult Leme to his first world championship and now he's trying to become just the second cowboy to do it back-to-back on the PBR.
Last week's 90-point finale in Omaha jacked Leme back to number one in your world standings after playing catch-up. The world champ was bucked off Dirty Sancho and broke his right ankle on the opening ride of his season. He bailed on surgery hoping for a quicker recovery and got it. In a heated race Leme leads fellow Brazilian Kiaque Pacheco by 27.5 points.
Not only does Leme like Billings, the PBR's Unleash the Beast tour does, too. Though it's the smallest stop every season, it's also the longest running now at 26 years.
Montanans, of course, love to see their own and for those hoping to get a look at Jess Lockwood, well, he's trying to make it happen after his wreck three weeks ago in Oklahoma City. Lockwood hasn't ridden since and had already missed a trio of events due to a broken jaw and a free hand injury.
Lockwood is trying to climb out of the worst start of his career -- he's been bucked off of 12 bulls in 15 attempts. In his own words, he's "just been riding lazy," but still sits 24th in the world.
A PBR confirmed to MTN Sports Friday afternoon that Lockwood is on target for a return in Billings if his rehab and healing stay on course between now and then.
Same story for Columbia Falls cowboy Matt Triplett who is also trying to rebound from tough luck on the job. He strained his right groin last month in the opening round at Sioux Falls. That was following hip surgery late last season when he missed the world finals. Triplett and his wife are expecting their first baby this July.
Montana's Dakota Louis is on the bubble of qualifying for Billings. Louis is riding the Velocity Tour event this weekend in Missouri to honor the PBR's late Mason Lowe. A couple big scores there could vault Louis into the Billings picture next week.
Tickets are still available for all three rounds at First Interstate Arena starting next Friday, or fans can watch all performances live on CBS Sports Network.