By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – Joao Ricardo Vieira is extremely studious and attentive to details.
The 36-year-old spent time last season analyzing Jose Vitor Leme’s improvement at riding bulls away from his hand to see if he could learn something to help progress his own game. This year, he is again keenly attempting to find ways to improve his chances of winning the 2021 World Championship.
Vieira, who graduated from college in 2007 with a veterinarian degree in Brazil, said one area he is trying to improve in 2021 has been riding with a little bit more flash and flare like the defending World Champion.
However, it is a delicate balance. Vieira understands it is important to know when to be aggressive and when to remain patient so that he does not override a bull and cost himself a qualified ride.
“I try to ride a little different,” Vieira told PBR.com this week. “I see judges like Jose moving a lot, and I train to move a little more on the back of bulls, but I don’t think this is right (all the time). You need to move if the bull is bucking hard. But if you can ride the bulls, and you don’t need to move nothing, then you just stay on the bull. Jose has made it different. The judges love him moving a lot, and it helps him make a lot of points. I now try to move more and ride bulls that buck. I need to move more when bulls buck hard and fast.”
Vieira is averaging a career-best 88.08 points per ride this season on the Unleash The Beast, which is the third-best in the PBR behind Leme (89.71 points per ride) and Derek Kolbaba (88.15 points). Vieira’s career average ride score is 85.58 points, and his median score is 86.
That two-to-three-point improvement is important as Vieira looks to stay hot on the heels of the home-run-hitting Leme.
Three-time World Champion and SporTV analyst Adriano Moraes said that was one thing he noticed with Vieira this year.
“Joao has finally realized that you have to lean back and spur if you want to win,” Moraes said. “Because now it is not just a matter of staying on. Now it is about staying on and putting on a show. Before, he has been a classy rider, a gentle man when it came to bull riding. He just did the work. Nowadays, the judges want to see guys who are flashy, and Joao Ricardo seems like he realized that, so he is finally opening up and spurring bulls and getting higher scores like the biggest of his whole career, which he accomplished a few weeks ago (93 points on I’m Legit Too).
“Seeing that guy stepping up is great watching.”
Vieira is 21-for-40 (52.5%) with three 90-point rides and an event win (Oklahoma City) in 2021. His 21 rides are tied for the most in the PBR alongside 2018 World Champion Kaique Pacheco.
Vieira, the No. 4-ranked bull rider in the world, is 137.5 points behind Leme in the world standings heading into this weekend’s WCRA Major Rodeo Corpus Christi.
The WCRA event offers Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour level points, which also count towards the PWVT standings. A win in Corpus Christi could go a long way towards Vieira also qualifying for the 2021 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals on Oct. 30-31 in Las Vegas.
Other notable Top 30 riders tentatively expected to compete at the WCRA event this weekend include No. 1 Leme, No. 6 Colten Fritzlan, No. 9 Derek Kolbaba, No. 11 Keyshawn Whitehorse and No. 18 Cody Teel.
Vieira already has an automatic berth for the Showdown Round on Sunday because of his No. 1 ranking on the WCRA leaderboard. Still, he says he will also be competing on Saturday in hopes of winning some extra cash and picking up some more world points along the way.
Vieira will be joined by the Top 8 athletes from the qualifying and progressive rounds of action in the showdown round. From there, the Top 3 scores or times will advance to the Triple Crown of Rodeo Round, where they will compete for their share of the more than $500,000 event purse.
“I am so excited for the WCRA,” Vieira, who won the 2019 WCRA Title Town Stampede in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said. “It is good money in the WCRA. This is good for us. I think I am riding good. I am going to win the WCRA again.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andy Watson/Bull Stock Media
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