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Year After Being Crowned Top Rookie, Vieira Eyes World Title

By: Justin Felisko August 12, 2014@ 03:00:00 PM

Joao Ricardo Vieira is trying to follow last year’s Rookie of the Year award with a world title in 2014.

PUEBLO, Colo. – With three days remaining until the Built Ford Tough Series resumes in Tulsa, Oklahoma, PBR.com continues its look at the Top 5 riders in the world standings before the stretch run to the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals officially begins.

Today, we look at 2013 Rookie of the Year Joao Ricardo Vieira, who is currently third in the world standings.

FIRST HALF RECAP: Vieira has built off his third-place finish in the world standings last year as a rookie by putting himself in position to set new career highs in rides, 90-point rides and Top-10 finishes this season. The 30-year-old already has set a new career high with seven Top-5 finishes in the first half, which is the most in the BFTS thus far. Vieira also leads the BFTS with four 90-point rides and is second overall with nine Top-10 finishes. He posted 26 qualified rides, is riding at a 42.62 percent clip and is only 367.31 points behind Guilherme Marchi. He did have two opportunities to face Bushwacker in the first half, bucking off in both cases at the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V and in Nampa, Idaho.

BEST FIRST HALF PERFORMANCE: The Itatinga, Brazil, bull rider posted two victories this year. While he did win the Dr Pepper Iron Cowboy V title, Vieira’s strongest performance came in St. Louis, Missouri when he rode Smackdown for 90.75 points in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round for his first event win of 2014. After bucking off his first bull (Spin City), Vieira responded by riding his final three bulls (Throbbin Robin, Electric Prune and Smackdown) at the Scottrade Center.

FIRST HALF TOP RIDE: 90.75 points on Shepherd Hills Stockman in Anaheim, California, and Smackdown in St. Louis, Missouri.

RIDING AT HOME: Vieira returned home to Brazil and competed in six PBR Brazil events during the three-month hiatus from the BFTS. He posted at least two qualified rides in each event, and his best finish was a sixth-place result at the first Americana event in June. He finished 3-for-4 with an average ride score of 88.33 points. Vieira also placed 11th at the Sao Jose do Rio Preto event after riding Soldado for 91.25 points.

AREA FOR IMPROVEMENT: Both Ty Murray and Justin McBride agree that Vieira needs to learn how to ride bulls away from his hand before they can see him claiming his first World Championship. Yes, he will remain a consistent Top-5 contender, but both World Champions believe that it will be hard for Vieira to clinch a title without being able to handle bulls away from his left-hand.

“Cut and dry with him” McBride said. “He has to be able to ride bulls away from his hand. That is the bottom line with him. I am not even going to put him in the conversation to win it. He will be a Top 5 guy every year; but, for me, for him to win it, he has to learn to ride away from his hand.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Check out Joao Ricardo Vieira’s first half

Murray said it looks like Vieira has improved some this year compared to 2013, but he still needs to get better at riding away from his hand.

“That’s a big thing for him and Marchi,” Murray said. “If you are struggling with bulls going a certain direction then you are going to struggle and it is going to make the road to a World Championship harder. That is definitely something that doesn’t make them a favorite in my book, if they don’t get that turned around. What’s funny is I think it is all in their head. It is something that can be overcome.”

Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.

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