By: Justin Felisko
January 01, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – The 2017 Built Ford Tough Series season kicks off Friday night at Madison Square Garden in New York and PBR.com will be counting down the final days of the offseason by taking a look back at the Top 5 bull riders at the conclusion of the 2016 season.
Today, we look at Joao Ricardo Vieira, who finished the 2016 season fifth in the world standings.
No. 5 Joao Ricardo Vieira
World Championships: 0
Best World Standings Finish: second (2014)
2016 BFTS Stats:
Riding Percentage: 47.42 percent
Top Ride: 90 points on Time Bomb in New York
Wins: 1 (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
15/15 Bucking Battle Victories: 1 (Tulsa, Oklahoma)
Round Wins: 5
Top 10: 13
Top 5: 7
90-point Rides: 1
2016 Recap: It is hard to view Joao Ricardo Vieira’s 2016 season as his best season, even though he set a career-high with 46 qualified rides.
Well, unlike 2014 and 2015, when Vieira spent multiple weeks in the No. 1 ranking in the world standings, Vieira struggled to pick up important event victories or round wins in 2016.
Without the PBR Major victories that propelled him in 2015, Vieira struggled to ever get the No. 1 ranking during the 2016 title race alongside world leaders Kaique Pacheco, Cooper Davis and J.B. Mauney.
After tying for the championship round victory in January, Vieira didn’t record another round win until the end of February at Iron Cowboy. Even more detrimental to his title hopes was that he didn’t win another round at all during the first half of the season.
Still, Vieira, who also won THE AMERICAN in February, finished the first half with the most qualified rides on the BFTS (28) and was ranked fourth in the world standings.
Vieira then tried to rally late in the season with a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and an event victory in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but he came up short for a fourth consecutive year in the world title race.
It is why when you take a closer look at Vieira’s entire season of work, one can also make a strong case that Vieira made necessary improvements in his riding in 2016 and indeed may have had his best season.
Not only did he set a new career-mark in qualified rides, but the 32-year-old also posted a 47.42 percent riding average – the second-best of his career – after attempting a career-high 97 bulls at the BFTS level.
Vieira did tear his bicep during the summer, but it didn’t prove to be a major hindrance like past injuries derailed him in 2014 and 2015.
2017 Outlook: So the obvious question is what does Vieira need to do to finally get over the mountain in 2017?
Can he finally win that illusive PBR gold buckle?
The fifth-year pro will turn 33 years old this year and his title aspirations will become more of an uphill battle with each passing year.
He was the oldest rider to finish inside the Top 5 in 2016, and the fourth oldest behind 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi, Fabiano Vieira and 2004 World Champion Mike Lee among Top-10 riders.
“Some strange things will have to happen for them to win it, but they could win it like Adriano (Moraes) did,” PBR Director of livestock Cody Lambert said. “Adriano came up with a superhuman effort and everything else lined up for him too.”
Vieira will need to continue to focus on improving his ability to ride bulls away from his hand, which nine-time World Champion Ty Murray said Vieira improved at greatly in 2016.
Vieira is nearly lights out when a bull spins into his left hand. If he can even get remotely close to that ability with bulls going to the right, he may be able to finish the job and win a gold buckle.
In fact, Vieira has finished in the Top 5 of the world standings in each of his first four seasons in the PBR.
He also has posted 40 or more rides in three consecutive seasons and has had more qualified rides than the last two World Champions Davis (2016) and Mauney (2015) in each season.
Vieira made significant strides in 2016, but he will need to channel some of his 2014 and 2015 performances – i.e. picking up Major victories across the season – if he wants to surpass Davis, Pacheco and Mauney.
Vieira is a career 46.29-percent bull rider and the golden number for a World Champion in the last 17 years has been 50 percent.
If Vieira can get closer to that mark, and pick up a couple of victories, then maybe he can finally win the PBR’s $1 million bonus.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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