By: Justin Felisko
May 05, 2017
PUEBLO, Colo. – Two years ago, Joao Ricardo Vieira was being mobbed by a huge contingent of PBR fans from Brazil that had traveled to Las Vegas for the 2015 Last Cowboy Standing competition.
Vieira had just won his second PBR Major of the 2015 season and a massive $180,000 payday.
Most of all, Vieira earned 887.5 points toward the world standings and went into the 2015 summer break with an impressive 1,002.5-point lead on No. 2 Matt Triplett.
He was possibly well on his way to his first World Championship.
However, it would take J.B. Mauney only a month to catch Vieira and eventually run away with his second world title.
Mauney was unstoppable – overcoming a 1,662-point deficit and winning three second-half events – while Vieira got hurt in Brazil and couldn’t overcome injuries to his right knee/shin, riding wrist, left MCL and thigh.
“It was a little frustrating, but I stayed in the (lead) in the first half with big wins,” Vieira said. “You have to continue to ride better and stay in the front if you want to win (the world title).
“If I rode better, I wouldn’t have worried. I got hurt and then I was worried. My body did not work the same. I didn’t feel good. My mind was fine.”
Vieira went 8-for-26 in the second half and finished 2015 third in the world standings.
Vieira’s 2015 collapse is not his biggest disappointment, the 32-year-old explained in Tacoma, Washington, three weeks ago.
Instead, he believes his 2014 stumble at the World Finals was his biggest World Championship shortcoming.
Vieira went into the 2014 Finals as the No. 1 bull rider in the world standings with a 500-point lead on No. 2 Fabiano Vieira and No. 3 Silvano Alves.
The Itatinga, Brazil, native was bucked off by SweetPro’s Bruiser in Round 1 before riding Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (90.25 points) and Hy Test (87.5 points) to remain atop the world standings through three rounds of competition.
Vieira then bucked off Karaoke and King Tut just past 6 seconds in Rounds 4 and 5, setting up Alves’ remarkable comeback as the three-time World Champion capped off his third gold buckle with a flawless 6-for-6 showing at the World Finals.
“I went into the Finals number one and I bucked off two good bulls at the Finals,” Vieira said. “I was very sad about this. I am not looking at back (in the past) or too far in the front now.”
Vieira heads into this weekend’s Cactus Jack PBR Bull Riding Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour event in Uvalde, Texas, ranked 10th in the world standings.
A victory at Last Cowboy Standing in one week could vault him right back into the world title conversation for a fifth consecutive season.
Vieira is 1,415 points behind world leader Eduardo Aparecido.
The winner of Last Cowboy Standing will win a minimum of 625 points toward the world standings.
Vieira is 20-for-47 (42.55 percent) through 14 BFTS events and has ridden 40 or more bulls the last three years on the BFTS.
Vieira has finished in the Top 5 four straight seasons since winning the 2013 Rookie of the Year by finishing third in the world standings.
He is a career 45.84-percent bull rider with eight victories, including three PBR Major victories on his resume.
“This is a new year for me,” Vieira said. “I am learning every weekend, but I am going to try. After the weekend, I go practice and work on my body to ride better I am focused.”
Aparecido is the only rider other than Vieira and Mauney to ever have a 1,000-point lead atop the world standings in the current points system.
“You have to stay focused and be more dedicated,” Vieira said. “You have to practice to be better. You have to get points every week. This is a long game. You need to relax and focus on riding bulls. You can’t worry about the ranking.”
Vieira has won this style of event twice in his career, and a third could pay huge dividends for him.
“It is a big event with big money and big points toward the world ranking,” Vieira said. “It is a tough rodeo. You need to ride three, four, five bulls. You need to prepare. You need to do a lot to be Last Cowboy.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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