By: Justin Felisko
December 26, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Joao Ricardo Vieira has finished inside the Top 5 of the world standings the last four seasons.
Unlike 2014 and 2015, when Vieira found himself atop of the world standings and in the thick of the world title race, Vieira arrived in Las Vegas this past November with nothing to lose.
Vieira was essentially out of the world title race and had become an afterthought as the race between eventual World Champion Cooper Davis, Kaique Pacheco and J.B. Mauney was coming down to the wire.
However, Vieira put forth his best effort of his career on the PBR’s largest stage, going a career-high 4-for-6 and finishing in 10th place at the World Finals.
It was another solid performance by the 32-year-old, who had quietly had one of his best seasons of his career despite finishing a career-low fifth in the world standings.
“Yes. This is my best season,” Vieira replied when asked about his 2016 season. “I had a good start, but middle of the season I needed to ride better. Now, I am riding better again.”
Vieira set a career-high with 46 qualified rides in 2016 and finished with the second-highest riding percentage of his career (47.42 percent) thanks to an added focus on trying to improve his ability to ride bulls away from his hand.
He has posted 40 or more rides in three consecutive seasons, and his 46 rides in 2016 were the second-most in the PBR. In fact, Vieira has had more qualified rides than the last two World Champions Cooper Davis (2016) and J.B. Mauney (2015).
Vieira’s struggles away from his hand have been well-documented, but his determination to improve was commended by nine-time World Champion Ty Murray as he sat down for a CBS Sports Network production meeting in Las Vegas before the World Finals.
“I can see you have worked at it in the last two years,” Murray said. “I can see you getting better.”
Vieira added, “I rode the bulls that go toward the right. Those are the most I ride this year. That is really difficult. That is what I am working on this year. With a Pilates ball, I move in both directions on the floor.”
Along with improving his riding away from his hand, Vieira said he lost about four pounds during the second half of the season. Vieira, who used to run track in Brazil, increased his cardio workout routines and began dieting to get in better shape for the grind of the BFTS.
He saw some immediate benefits in the second half when he won the Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Vieira had also won the first 15/15 Bucking Battle of the BFTS stretch run in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with an 81.25-point ride on No Regrets.
Vieira said he was competing at the lightest weight of his bull riding career since he was 21 years old when he stepped foot inside T-Mobile Arena this past November.
“I feel lighter, but still as strong and very good to ride bulls,” he said. “When I started, I had the same weight as I do now. I want to lose a little bit of more weight to be faster on my riding.”
Vieira has been home in Itatinga, Brazil, since the conclusion of the World Finals and has competed at a few local rodeos in preparation for the 2017 season.
At the Quintana rodeo, Vieira made a strong 90.25-point ride, as well as an 89.25-point ride, and finished in fourth place.
Vieira will return to the U.S. for the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden on Jan. 6-8.
“Just like the other years, I want to be the best and I want to end in a really good position this year,” Vieira said.
Vieira expects to make another push at his first world title in 2016, but at 32 years old his window is certainly shrinking.
“I want to finish my career doing good,” he said. “It is a pleasure to ride with guys like J.B. (Mauney). I am 32. I want to enjoy everything, and I appreciate every minute. Everything goes by so fast. Being a bull rider is a short time. I have to enjoy every minute.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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