LAS VEGAS – In five months, Joao Ricardo Vieira will return to Las Vegas and can only hope he has the kind of success that he had this weekend at Last Cowboy Standing, the feature event of Cowboy Spring Break.
It is very simple for this year’s Last Cowboy Standing champion and current world leader about what he has to do next after winning both marquee PBR Major events of the season.
“World Champion,” Vieira said with the help of Robson Palermo translating. “I look to be a World Champion. I have won these titles and, of course, I am going to try and win the World Championship.”
Vieira earned a total of 877.5 points toward the world standings in Las Vegas in a thunderous performance that has put him in a commanding lead heading into the summer break away from the Built Ford Tough Series.
The 30-year-old now leads No. 2 Matt Triplett by 1,002.5 points – the largest lead of any No. 1 ranked rider this season.
Last year, there was only one week in which a rider led the world standings by more than 1,000 points. That rider was Vieira, who led Silvano Alves by 1,033.94 points with two weeks remaining in the season.
Although, the season is far from over with eight BFTS events remaining, including another PBR Major in Nashville, and the Built Ford Tough World Finals in October, there will be plenty of opportunities for riders to try and cut into Vieira’s commanding lead.
It is why Vieira understands he can’t get complacent during the home stretch of the BFTS before the World Finals.
“No, I can’t relax because there are a lot of people behind me that can ride great,” Vieira said. “I just need to ride good bulls and make good points to be here.”
Vieira admitted last week that he wanted to redeem himself after his poor performance in Las Vegas during last year’s World Finals. It was there that he witnessed Alves storm past him with a dominating 6-for-6 showing compared to his three qualified rides.
“I am not going to change nothing,” Vieira added. “When you get to the Finals and you need to go there to win. You don’t care about how many points in the front (you are), but you just want to go there and ride better.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert echoed Vieira’s comments, “He is in the lead by 1,000 points, but it is far from over.”
Vieira went 3-for-5 and wound up winning Last Cowboy Standing with 277.5 round points for a major — no pun intended — victory heading into the summer break.
The difference maker that pushed Vieira past Stetson Lawrence for the victory was his 90.75-point ride on Percolator to win Round 3 and give him 150 of his 277.5 round points.
“As long as the bulls go left, he can ride anything,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said. “For left-handers, Percolator is great and fits the really good ones. Joao is tough.”
Vieira nearly won the event outright on Walk Off, before being bucked off in 7.17 seconds. He then failed to convert on Who Dey less than 10 minutes later.
“I was a little bit tired,” Vieira admitted. “My hand was a little tired, but I rode two great bulls. They were hard bulls. I didn’t care (about being tired), I just tried to ride.”
Two-time World Champion and CBS Sports commentator Justin McBride said you have to give credit where credit is due, but Lady Luck gets an assist too.
“I am telling you. Everybody comes to Vegas looking for Lady Luck,” McBride said. “Joao has to be the luckiest guy going right now. I only mean that to an extent. You make your own luck and good things happen. You put yourself in good situations and good things happen. He rode great, but we talk about coming into an event where it is a random draw and there is no draft in this thing. We say, ‘OK, now this takes it a little bit of control out of his comfort zone because there is a chance he draws bulls that go to the right (away from his hand).’ It didn’t happen. Every bull leading up to the last one goes to the left and he makes really good rides.
“I really thought he would finish Walk Off off and it ended up working out in the long run, but he kind of let that one away. That is one I expect him to ride.”
Vieira has gone a combined 6-for-8 at the two PBR Major events and has earned a little over 50 percent of his total world points and won $383,233.33, which is 77.79 percent of his total earnings this season, in the two showcase events.
“He has that padding now in the standings,” McBride added. “Even with that chink in his armor that I keep bringing up and harping on, maybe I ought to get off it just a little bit because it is working. You look at it, we make such a big deal about these Majors that we are having. These are huge events. He has won both of them. He won both of them. In this format, he has been the best bull rider at both of the events and his confidence has to be up there.”
On both occasions, Vieira’s wife, Rosimara, and daughter, Maria Clara, were in attendance.
“This is the second time she has come to the event this year and both times I have won,” he said.
Vieira used some of his earnings from Iron Cowboy to buy a new house in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and he has put much of the money into the bank.
“Some of the money I have saved and put in the bank here in the U.S.,” Vieira said. “I bought a house in Brazil. It is not very big; it is just a very nice house.”
Vieira plans on visiting his new home and will stay there this summer until the end of June. He begins his trip to Brazil on Monday.
The third-year pro will return to Brazil as the Iron Cowboy and Last Cowboy Standing.
When he returns to the United States, he will hope to become a champion at the Calgary Stampede and ultimately a World Champion.
“I am happy I won again,” Vieira said. “This is going to help my confidence to ride better. I feel healthy and I feel good.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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