By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Joao Ricardo Vieira sat down at his home in Decatur, Texas, and leaned his head against the wall.
The 36-year-old’s face was still glistening with sweat after working for a few hours outside in the 90-degree Texas sunshine on Thursday afternoon.
The No. 2 ranked bull rider in the world has been chasing history all season long since he won the season-opening PBR Major in New York City. It was then that Vieira immediately threw himself into the 2020 world title race, and the question arose of if he could become the second-oldest World Champion in PBR history and join three-time World Champion Adriano Moraes as 36-year-old champs.
Vieira understands he has his work cut out for him to make history as he tries to overcome a 593.09-point deficit in the world standings with five Unleash The Beast events remaining before the 2020 PBR World Finals. Vieira, though, says he is simply thankful to have the opportunity to make a living this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted and affected so many people’s lives throughout the world.
“This year is so hard for the world,” Vieira told PBR.com. “COVID has made it a tough year. I see this year as a bonus. If you get money, and you can go to the rodeo, it is a good consequence.”
Vieira missed four Unleash The Beast events in the spring when he opted to return home to Brazil with his family when the pandemic shut the PBR down for 41 days. At the end of the Gwinnett Invitational, Vieira was only 93.75 points behind world leader Jose Vitor Leme in the world standings and he was 274.25 points behind once he returned for the second half.
The 2013 Rookie of the Year will now try to cut into his current 593.09-point gap this weekend with Leme not cleared to compete at the Lucas Oil Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa. Vieira has drawn Skull Crusher (0-0, UTB) for Round 1 before taking on South Texas Gangster (27-11, UTB) in the 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Round 1 airs exclusively on RidePass on Saturday night beginning at 7:45 p.m. ET.
“I don’t look at the world title,” Vieira said. “I look at each event. I want to ride good and bring money back to my house. My body is good. I don’t look for the world title because the world title is a consequence if you have a good year and ride good, and if you get a lot of points you can get the world title. You need to ride good all year to win the world title.”
Vieira also has already said he will not be retiring following the 2020 season. He has goals of riding two more years as long as he continues to compete at a high level.
“I have a plan to make it 10 times to the World Finals,” Vieira said. “This year is eight. So I need next year and the next year, then I retire. This is only if I am riding good. I have a plan for two more years, but if I don’t ride good then I will retire.”
Father time has not caught up to Vieira just yet it appears.
Vieira is 24-for-49 and has a career-best 48.98% riding average this season to stay in the world title hunt. The Itatinga, Brazil, native still has time for a late-push at the 2020 world title despite missing those four events in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
For a rider to have a realistic shot at winning the 2020 World Championship, he will likely have to be within 650 points of the world No. 1 ranking at the start of the World Finals. However, a rider within 800 points of the world No. 1 ranking could also remain in contention with a victory at the Finals, but he would need some major help from his opponents stubbing their toes.
One rider can earn a maximum of 1,040 points at the World Finals, and there still are 800 world points available for a rider on the UTB regular season.
Vieira could earn 50 points with a 15/15 Bucking Battle victory Saturday night, an event format that Vieira has thrived in for years, and 140 points with a sweep of the two-day UTB event.
The veteran bull rider owns the PBR record for career 15/15 Bucking Battle qualified rides (22) and victories (6). However, South Texas Gangster has bucked him off in both of their previous matchups.
Vieira, though, is confident he can turn the course against South Texas Gangster this weekend.
“I have had good luck in 15/15’s,” Vieira said with a laugh. “I have had good bulls that I can ride. I like the 15/15s. I see these as bonus bulls. You just go into these to have fun. This I put in my mind.”
15/15 Bucking Battle Matchups
Alex Cerqueira vs. Good Night Robicheaux (22-2, UTB)
Claudio Montanha Jr. vs. Soup in a Group (28-11, UTB)*
Andrew Alvidrez vs. Smooth Wreck (26-7, UTB)
Mauricio Moreira vs. Space Force (15-4, UTB/METC)
Derek Kolbaba vs. Sky Harbor (23-5, UTB/METC)*
Cody Teel vs. The Right Stuff (16-1, UTB/METC)
Ramon de Lima vs. I’m Busted (7-0, UTB/METC)*
Eduardo Aparecido vs. Apper’s Mind Freak (27-5, UTB)
Ezekiel Mitchell vs. Big Black (21-13, UTB)
Mason Taylor vs. Blue Crush (18-5, UTB)
Cooper Davis vs. Rocky (8-2, UTB)$
Colten Jesse vs. American Gangster (14-4, UTB/METC)*
Kaique Pacheco vs. Speed Demon (48-9, UTB)$
Jess Lockwood vs. Smooth Operator (81-8, UTB/METC)
Joao Ricardo Vieira vs. South Texas Gangster (27-11, UTB/METC)*
*Bull previously bucked off the rider
$Rider previously has ridden the bull for a qualified ride
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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