NEW TOWN, N.D. – There had been a tad bit of fear inside the back of Fabiano Vieira’s mind every time he nodded for the gate during the last three months of the 2016 PBR season.
With every bull that he left the bucking chute upon, Vieira wondered if his left riding shoulder would stay in place after dislocating it at the Calgary Stampede in July and then at the Built Ford Tough Series second-half opener in Nashville this past August.
Vieira was third in the world standings at the time of his injury and was on the cusp of possibly winning his first world title, but for the second time in three seasons Vieira was forced to deal with an unstable shoulder – this time it was his riding arm and not his free arm.
Regardless, Vieira still finished ninth in the world standings and began the Built Ford Tough World Finals with two qualified rides before bucking off his last four bulls.
Vieira understands he is not 100 percent healthy. He also knows the 2017 PBR World Finals are a long, long way away.
The 34-year-old got exactly the kind of start to the 2017 season he wanted this weekend at the Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour (RVT) event at Four Bears Casino and Lodge.
Vieira used a perfect 4-for-4 (340 points) performance to earn his first RVT event victory of the season and 80 points toward the world standings by riding Joe The Grinder for 81 points on the final ride of the championship round.
“This was good practice this week,” Vieira said. “I went 4-for-4. I will feel better if I do this for another four or five events. My head is starting to come back. Last time I rode, I was a little bit scared I would be sore or hurt again. I am not sore now. I am riding very, very good.”
Vieira was bucked off by Damn Yankee in 2.94 seconds last weekend at the Goliad, Texas, Touring Pro Division event.
The Perola, Brazil, bull rider has been a world title contender the past three seasons, but he has come up short each year as his unstable shoulders began to wear down over the course of the BFTS grind.
In 2014, Vieira dislocated his right shoulder and tore his rotator cuff. He had to alter his riding style in 2014 and 2015 because of the injury after refusing to undergo surgery.
Vieira proved just how good of a rider he is by gritting his way to a fourth and fifth-place finish in the world standings both years.
“Nobody rode better than Fabiano this weekend,” reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger said. “He rides so good with bad shoulders. There is no bull in the world that can buck him off if he is healthy.
“I have said it for many years, he is a world champ-caliber rider. Watch out if he comes to town because he can win the world and beat anybody out there on any given day. I am glad he did good out here at our event.”
Vieira was previously bucked off by Joe The Grinder two times. He also was disqualified against Joe The Grinder this past season in San Jose, California, for a chute clock violation.
Joe The Grinder stopped bucking just before the 8-second whistle in New Town.
Vieira laughed about Joe The Grinder’s kindness to let him easily dismount.
“He is a nice bull,” Vieira said. “I got disqualified in the chute with him this year. Today, I was a cowboy. Nothing hurt. I didn’t care.”
Vieira had to make the 8-second mark to win the event after Cody Nance rode Set ‘em Up Joe minutes earlier for a championship-round best 89 points.
“I made the 8-second whistle with a lot of hustle, a lot of grit and a lot of try,” said Nance, who finished second overall for 50 world points. “I am really blessed.”
Wallace de Oliveira went 3-for-4 (251 points) to finish in third place, picking up 30 points toward the world standings.
2016 PBR Brazil champion Dener Barbosa finished in fourth place with a 3-for-4 (246) showing. Barbosa earned 20 points toward the world standings.
Derek Kolbaba (2-for-4, 175.5 points) won Round 3 on Saturday night with an 89.5-point ride on Hammer Down and finished the weekend in fifth place. Kolbaba’s finish gives him 15 points in the world standings.
None of them could outdo the savvy, tough as nails Vieira, though.
Vieira began the two-night event this weekend by riding Ferdinand in Round 1 for 86 points and Roll Your Own for 84.5 points in Round 2 Friday. Vieira then kicked things off Saturday night with an 88.5-point ride aboard Rand’s Big Cadillac.
Vieira’s ride on Big Cadillac was vintage Vieira. Big Cadillac turned into Vieira’s left hand and the bull rider fell into an easy groove, taking the Berger bovine to the 8-second mark jump-for-jump every step of the way.
Vieira concluded 2016 32-for-80 (40 percent) with two BFTS event wins, six Top-5 finishes and eight Top-10s.
However, he only posted three qualified rides in the last three months of the season before the World Finals after Hammer It Again dislocated his shoulder in Nashville.
Vieira previously had posted 40 or more rides in back-to-back seasons.
He admits that his confidence is not where he wants it to be just yet with the 2017 Built Ford Tough Series a month and a half away.
This weekend is a start, though.
A great start for that matter.
“I have a long way to go until the (2017) Finals,” Vieira concluded. “It is a long way. I don’t know. I just pray to God that (my shoulder) won’t hurt me. I am old, but I am riding very good. I am riding with these young people (that are) 19, 20 years old.
“I am going to try. I have a long way to go to be the World Champion next year. A long way.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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