PUEBLO, Colo. – Joao Ricardo Vieira still remembers the disappointment and frustration he felt the last time he competed in Las Vegas.
Seven months ago, Vieira began the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals as the No. 1 bull rider in the world standings and was aspiring to finish off his second year on the BFTS with his first world title.
He entered the Finals with a slim 511.63-point lead on Fabiano Vieira before he bucked off his final three bulls of the season, while Silvano Alves rode his last three bulls to finish 6-for-6 and snatch the gold buckle and its $1 million bonus.
Vieira is returning to Las Vegas as the No. 1 rider once again, but this time it will be for the final BFTS event of the first half – Last Cowboy Standing, the featured event of Cowboy Spring Break, at the MGM Resorts Village.
“I am ready,” Vieira said with the help of Miriaham Contreras translating. “I am prepared to ride. I am confident. I am ready to go get on some good bulls, get 93-point rides and win Last Cowboy Standing.”
Not only will there be $180,000 up for grabs to the overall winner, but there will be 600 points awaiting the victor of the second PBR Major of the season.
Vieira is hoping to redeem himself this time around in Las Vegas.
“It leaves me anxious to do better next time,” Vieira said about how failure motivates him. “It gives me a reason to redeem myself and show people what I can do because I didn’t do well.”
Vieira is 7-for-18 (38.89 percent) in four BFTS events (two World Finals) in Las Vegas.
The 30-year-old had a similar mentality earlier this season for Iron Cowboy. Despite winning the 2014 Iron Cowboy, Vieira headed into this season’s edition looking to prove he truly was the Iron Cowboy after winning the 2014 title despite riding none of his bulls.
He responded this year by going 3-for-3 to win the first PBR Major, $194,833.33 and 900 total points toward the world standings.
It was the turning point of Vieira’s season and it began his five-week march from 26th in the standings to No. 1 as he overcame a 1,820-point deficit.
“It was great,” Vieira said. “Especially as an athlete, I felt much better about myself and it gave me a lot of motivation to keep riding my bulls.”
Vieira currently holds a slim 170-point lead on No. 2 Matt Triplett in the world standings and leads the BFTS with 29 qualified rides. He also has earned the most money ($304,250) on the BFTS and is likely on pace to surpass his career high of 41 qualified rides that he set last year during his runner-up finish for the world title.
Three-time World Finals event winner Robson Palermo, who is also competing at Last Cowboy Standing, believes Vieira is about the same rider as he was last year, expect that he is beginning to ride with more confidence.
“I like to see the way Joao has been riding,” Palermo said. “He has been impressive. His confidence is high and he is starting to ride good bulls and some tough bulls.”
Vieira spent the past two weeks letting his sore ribs heal that had been affecting him since April 11. According to Vieira, the ribs began to feel better last week, and he has since been able to run and workout in preparation for Last Cowboy Standing.
On a scale of one to 10 in regards to how much better his ribs were feeling, Vieira classified it at 11.
“They feel very better,” he said. “I’ve been working out and lifting weights. I have been able to run.”
The injury didn’t affect him too much at first, but over time the annoyance of the injury began to bother him more than the pain.
“Not the first few days, but then my nervous system wouldn’t react or move like I should,” he said. “That is when it started frustrating me.”
Following Last Cowboy Standing, Vieira will head to Brazil for 30 days where he will compete in a couple of PBR Brazil events, starting with Divinopolis on May 28, before returning to North America for the Calgary Stampede in July.
If Vieira were to come through and claim a second consecutive PBR Major event win this weekend, the 600 points could help him potentially double up his world lead over riders ranked fourth and below in the world standings heading into the break.
Regardless, Vieira understands that heading into summer No. 1 won’t mean much if he doesn’t seal the deal at the conclusion of the season during the World Finals.
“Of course winning Last Cowboy Standing would be great because it is a lot of money and a lot of points,” Vieira concluded, “but being No. 1 going into the break doesn’t matter if you don’t ride well at Finals.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2015 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.