By: Justin Felisko
August 10, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Only time will tell if Joao Ricardo Vieira can erase the cloud of doubt that has been circling his mind since the beginning of the Built Ford Tough Series summer break.
Vieira had every intention of hitting the summer BlueDEF Tour and Touring Pro Division full speed ahead until an injury to his left riding arm derailed his plans.
For the second year in a row, Vieira enters the stretch run of the Built Ford Tough Series with a nagging injury.
Last year, Vieira saw his grip on the world No. 1 ranking dissolve because of a slew of injuries (right knee/shin, riding wrist, sprained left MCL and bruised thigh) he sustained during the final three months of the season. Now, Vieira is trying to rebound from a slight bicep lesion he sustained at the Fort Worth Stockyards in mid-May during an open bull riding.
“Yeah I had a muscle rupture,” Vieira said this week via WhatsApp. “I was sad because I had planned on vacation to go to open rodeos and I could not go.”
The 2013 Rookie of the Year originally believed he had only hyperextended the elbow.
Vieira admitted he was nervous about the injury for the majority of the summer, but he is regaining his confidence following a victory at the Koben Puckett Invitational Touring Pro Division event this past weekend in Amarillo, Texas.
The No. 4 ranked rider in the world standings earned the victory by going 1-for-2 with an 87.5-point ride on Cajun Blood.
“My biceps is good,” Vieira said. “Amarillo was a good test and good to have confidence that I can ride and not feel pain. I was knocked down in the (championship round), but felt good. I feel very good and happy because from the beginning of (BFTS break) I had a lesion and have been working to be good.”
Vieira is only 392.83 points behind world leader Kaique Pacheco, but how healthy is the arm heading into next week’s Frontier Communications Music City Knockout, presented by Cooper Tires, in Nashville?
“Now I am 75 percent,” he said. “I will win a BFTS event, so I’ll be 100 percent.”
Vieira shifted his focus this summer from gaining points toward the world title race to rehabbing the injury with physical therapy and conditioning.
However, he only earned 65 total points and went a combined 6-for-15 in limited action. Vieira began the summer break 315.33 points behind Pacheco, so he didn’t lose much ground at all.
The 32-year-old plans on competing at this Wednesday’s Missoula, Montana, Touring Pro Division event and will attempt a few more practice bulls on Saturday in preparation for Nashville.
Other top riders competing in Missoula include No. 10 Mike Lee, No. 17 Lachlan Richardson, No. 20 Stetson Lawrence, No. 28 Kasey Hayes, No. 33 Nathan Schaper and No. 35 Marco Eguchi.
Vieira is no stranger to success in PBR bracket-style events, having won the 2014 Iron Cowboy championship.
“I like that kind of competition,” Vieira said. “It requires better physical conditioning and psychological (focus).”
Vieira and Pacheco are tied for the most PBR Major victories (two) over the past two seasons.
Vieira was the top-seed in last year’s Music City Knockout, but was eliminated by Shane Proctor in Round 3.
He may not feel 100 percent just yet, but Vieira has no plans of seeing another world title run get interrupted by an injury.
Vieira, who is one of the Brazilian riders featured in next week’s Netflix original documentary series, “Fearless,” shares during the six episodes how motivated he is to one day be crowned a PBR World Champion.
He may have come up short in each of his first three seasons, but the Itatiba, Brazil, native reiterated that message again this week.
“I dream to make a good Final and be World Champion,” Vieira concluded. “I have not done it (and that has) even made me stronger to fight more.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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