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Season Countdown: No. 5 Fabiano Vieira

PUEBLO, Colo. – The 2015 Built Ford Tough Series season kicks off Friday night at Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena and PBR.com will be counting down the final days of the offseason by taking a look at the Top 5 bull riders, based on the 2014 final standings.

Today, we look at Fabiano Vieira, who finished the 2014 season ranked fifth in the world standings.

Fabiano Vieira

World Championships: 0
2014 BFTS Stats:
Rides
: 42
Attempts: 77
Riding Percentage: 54.55 percent
Wins: 3 (New York; Sacramento, Calif.; Allentown, Pa.)
Top 10: 11
Top 5: 8
90-point Rides: 1
High Score: 90 points on White Lie (Albuquerque, N.M.)

2014 Season Recap: Fabiano Vieira’s 2014 season – in its simplest terms – came down to the health of his right shoulder. First, the Perola, Brazil, bull rider tore his rotator cuff in March following a strong start to the season with two victories through the first five events (New York & Sacramento, Calif.). He eventually dislocated his shoulder during the Rumble in the Rockies in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in May, when he was tossed to the dirt by Cowtown Slinger in the championship round. The PBR sports medicine team was able to put his shoulder back into place, but it came out again during the BFTS second-half opener in Tulsa, Oklahoma, hindering him for the remainder of 2014.

Vieira continuously refused to undergo season-ending surgery, and instead hoped to grit his way toward his first world title. At times, he would be able to compensate for his shoulder woes by altering his riding style to make the 8-second mark. However, five continuous days of competition during World Finals proved to be too much for Vieira’s shoulder, as the 32-year-old finished the event 1-for-5.

“He rode really good (despite the injury),” said two-time World Champion Justin McBride, who suffered a similar injury in 2007. “That is just being able to understand what you are doing and how to compensate for that type of injury. You could see it at the Finals when it was five days of getting on all the rank ones, he just couldn’t take it.”

Regardless of the injury, Vieira still posted his best finish in the world standings (fifth) since his first full season on tour in 2011, when he also placed fifth in the world.

2014 Highlight Moment: Vieira uses re-ride option to set up Allentown victory

Throughout the second half of the 2014 season, Vieira had to find ways to compensate for his injured shoulder. At times, this would require trying to set himself in good draft position for the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, so he could select a bull that would not further injure his shoulder.

In Allentown, Pa., Vieira accepted his re-ride option in the second round, following a 74.25-point ride on Peanuts. He proceeded to ride Alternator for 87 points. He then used the top pick of the championship-round draft to select Who Dat, a bull on which he had previously won three BFTS events (2014 New York, 2012 Indianapolis and 2011 Hartford, Conn.). He had his sights on Who Dat during Round 2 and it was the main reason he accepted his re-ride.

Vieira knew he needed to make up ground on then-world leader Joao Ricardo Vieira in the final regular-season event of 2014 and the decision paid off, as he sealed the victory by riding Who Dat for 85.5 points. The victory also cut Vieira’s world lead in half.

2015 Outlook: Vieira, who is entering his sixth year on the BFTS, decided to not undergo shoulder surgery this offseason and instead continued to rehab and strengthen his shoulder in preparation for 2015. If the shoulder is 100 percent healthy, McBride believes Vieira may be able to finish off what he failed to do in 2014 and win that coveted first gold buckle.

“If he has been able to rehab it and get it good then I like his chances,” McBride said. “The guy can flat out ride and he is tough.

“How is his shoulder going to be? That’s what I want to know. If he is just competing from where he was at the Finals, he is still going to be a good bull rider, but he is not going to win a World Championship. He can’t ride the rank ones, at least not with any sort of consistency. I think he is a great bull rider. I just wish he was healthy.”

Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray was just as hesitant about Vieira heading into this year.

“I think he is a total bull rider,” Murray said. “Healthy, no question he is in contention for a word title. That is a big caveat to say he is healthy, especially when he is trying to get by with a shoulder that we saw give him trouble. Rehab can help some to a degree. If he was a running back in the NFL, he would have a big question mark and I feel that could be the case here too, just because it is rough and brutal.”

Vieira, who was hindered by injuries in 2013, as well, has posted a riding average of 50 percent or higher in four of the past five BFTS seasons, and last year was one of only three BFTS riders to finish with that high of an average. He also has won at least two events every season since 2011.

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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