Adam Cianciarulo’s transition from the amateur nationals straight to the starting gate of the nail chewing, take-no-quarter 250MX class at the Budds Creek National was something of a baptism by fire. One of the most accomplished amateur riders in U.S. motocross history, the hyped to the hilt Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider was placed in an unenviable position to meet some great expectations. And that didn’t happen. Thanks to a nasty case of salmonella poisoning that developed on the eve of his Lucas Oil Pro Motocross debut, the congenial 16 year-old from Florida just plain wilted from the heat, humidity and “brutal youth” competitive spirit of the world’s most competitive division of motocross racing. Trying to gain both strength and confidence was tough when upwards of ten riders at a time wanted nothing more to turn the screws on AC292. But Cianciarulo toughed it out and at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Utah National, he raced to his first career moto podium finish. But a week after finally showing his true potential, the 2014 season just up and finished on him at Lake Elsinore. It is now November 7, 2013 and Adam Cianciarulo is, along with comrades Ken Roczen and Ryan Villopoto and platoon leader Aldon Baker, down in his native Florida putting the finishing touches on his masterplan of blitzing the football and baseball stadiums that will house the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross Series. And that’s where we found the young man who was cool enough, as he always is, to take a break and allow Racer X to fire questions at him. So away we go…
Racer X: Adam, what did you have going today?
Adam Cianciarulo: Today we got up at 7 o’clock, we get up at that time every morning, and we normally do a road bike ride with the whole crew. Ken Roczen is down here now and there’s a roadracer that’s also on Aldon’s program and his name is Chris Clark (Note: Clark rides for the Yoshimura Suzuki team in the AMA SuperBike series). Ryan Villopoto is normally with us, but he’s actually in Las Vegas right now for SEMA (a massive automobile special products trade show) for Falken tires. So it was just Aldon, Ken and I on a road ride this morning. After that Ken and I burned laps on the supercross track. So we just did that and now we’re actually about to go over to Aldon’s right now just to hang out and do some stuff. It’s cool in Florida having this kind of routine and to have a good group of guys to do the routine with. It makes it a lot more fun.
How is it training and riding with Ken Roczen?
It’s awesome. The guy is just how you would think. For me, from the outside looking in for a few years and just seeing him pretty much on the podium and around the pits, he’s the same guy. He’s always joking around. It’s cool because at the same time he’s serious when it’s time to be serious. He’s really lighthearted and it’s cool to have a guy with a lot of energy come in and be a part of the program. He’s been super-cool to me and everybody so far, so it’s been awesome.
Suffice to say Adam Cianciarulo's first season in pro moto didn't go as planned.
Andrew Fredrickson photo
Ken’s probably a really good guy to key yourself off of as you prepare for the 2014 supercross series, huh?
Yeah, absolutely. Getting to ride with him is a huge advantage for me. Him, coming off the West Coast Championship and obviously being one of the top guys in the 250 class for a few years now, I can get some advice from him and also kind of see the way he rides; he’s got that super-smooth, kind of light riding style. It’s cool just to maybe bunch up with him in a corner. That way I get to see what Ken’s doing or just kind of feed off of him. And he’s always down to help me out. It’s been great so far to ride with a one time world champion and one time supercross champion.
Once the Nationals were over, did you take some time off and then go right into your off-season program to begin getting ready for supercross?
Actually, I didn’t take too much time off after the Nationals. Obviously, a lot of people know the story about the salmonella, but maybe not the full extent of the story. Basically I had a gnarly version of salmonella, and I had talked to you about this before, that pretty much drained me down the entire outdoor season. It lasted right up to the last couple of races. I know it’s a gnarly subject, but I had diarrhea every day since Hangtown, really. I had it all the way through a few weeks after the Nationals. I hid it from people. I hid it from my dad and I hid it from the team just because I wanted to race. I thought that I’ve always been able to ride through pain and ride through sickness, but this was obviously a bit gnarlier than what I should have ridden through. It’s a regret I have. I should have said something. In the end, I am happy I did race the Nationals so when I go to those tracks next year I’ll know them and I’ve been down that road. And actually, we got some stuff figured out towards the end of outdoors and that was actually right before Utah. I started taking some iron supplements. I had to start taking iron through an IV because I was so low it was crazy. The doctor didn’t even know how I was riding. I felt so good after Elsinore that I really didn’t want to take any time off. It was the first time I felt good all summer. All summer I felt like crap. I felt good after the Nationals so I just went full steam ahead. In regards to the program now, it definitely steps up during the off-season. If you ask anybody, you can’t really build a lot of strength and endurance during the season. It’s more maintenance. It’s all definitely been stepped up but I’ve been having a lot of fun.
I have respect for what you pulled of this summer. I mean, you just toughed it out and despite a rough start, you kept on chipping away.
Going into Budds Creek I thought, I should be able to get better every weekend. I thought, yes, I won’t be as good as I should be the first weekend, but I feel like I can get better every weekend. Unfortunately, with how bad I was having diarrhea, I was getting a little bit worse. And it kind of made it to where I didn’t get tired, I went to practice in the morning and to the gate and I was already tired! It was one of those deals. Right there I knew it was going to be a struggle. I probably should have said more than I did, but I was already in it. At the same time I wasn’t doing good but I didn’t want to lose that experience of racing. Yes, I didn’t do as good as I’m capable of, and I know that, in the end next year when I got to outdoors I’ll be so glad that I made the decision to ride through it. It was a learning experience and it was tough, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was a hard experience, but a great one. In the future do I think what I learned will help me? Absolutely. Do I think going into the Nationals next year that I’m going to be bummed because I got 15th because I had a gnarly sickness? No. Not at all. I’m going to be happy I raced and toughed it out and got the experience of racing with the best guys in the world and riding those tracks.
With an illness behind him and world-class training partners to learn from, will we see a whole new AC come 2014?
Andrew Fredrickson photo
How is your supercross pre-season training going? How is the learning process of supercross going?
Honestly, Eric, It’s been great so far. I started off in California, let’s say four weeks after Elsinore, and it’s been going great so far. I did some testing while I was in California and just a few weeks ago I came out to the East Coast and started riding at The Farm [Villopoto’s place] on some different dirt. I feel great on supercross. I’ve always liked supercross. Obviously, growing up as a kid, the only real supercross that we got to race was at the Mini O’s and that wasn’t quite the real deal. Fortunately I was able to do some of the one-off races like the U.S. Open and the Monster Energy Cup. I think that really helped me out in making me comfortable right away. And riding with Kenny and Ryan, they have so much more experience than I do and I kind of get to feed off them and see where they’re going better than me and I get to do that every day. It’s one of the best training tools out there and it’s been going really well so far.
The 2013 Winter Olympics are coming up on November 25. And while you’re in Florida and the Olympics are not too far away up in Gainesville, does that all feel a million miles away to you now?
Growing up racing the same amateur nationals, you’re kind of, at least I have been, always looking forward to the pro ranks. My mind has always been two steps ahead of my body, you could say. I think now that I’m getting ready for supercross, I’ve been in this position so long I think it feels more normal than it actually is. It’s definitely weird. We always have Thanksgiving at the Mini O’s and all of my family would always drive up because they all live in Florida. We all used to have Thanksgiving around the motorhome. You know I was just talking to my mom today and we don’t know what we’re going to do for Thanksgiving now that we’re not at the Mini O’s.
Going to take some time to adjust to some of these new numbers.
One question I wanted to ask you: Were you interested in competing in any of the overseas supercross races such as Genova or Paris or did you want to stay closer to home and dial-in your SX program here in the United States?
I think for me, at least at this point, it was better to stay in Florida and train and get a great base under me. Everybody knows I’m a pretty little guy in terms of strength so I’ve been building a lot of strength up and taking advantage of the time I have to build my strength and build my endurance. I think it was a great decision for me to stay and just get ready for supercross.
Last question: East Coast or West Coast. Do you have a preference?
Well, the way I look at it is that there is going to be a gate and there are going to be triples and there are going to be rhythm sections. If I’m in Texas or if I’m in California, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m game for either one!