Normally, rookie 450 riders have to take the lumps and wait until the off-season to get a chance to apply what they’ve learned. The COVID-19 lockdown gave Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo an opportunity to make improvements during a break, and now he’s rested and ready as the championship resumes Sunday.
We talked to him on his way back from riding time in California.
Racer X: Are you driving back from the track? What was going on today?
Adam Cianciarulo: Yeah. NYK [Nick Wey] is driving me home here. We went out to Glen Helen, actually. Mitch’s track, Pro Circuit. Did a few laps, a couple motos with [Cameron] McAdoo up there and tried some stuff. We had a pretty good day. That track is always super hard to ride for some reason. It’s like a 44-second lap time, so 20 plus 1 is I think 28 laps so it’s always pretty challenging.
What level of prep are we talking here? Were you motoing down forever or when you found out about this did you have to change anything?
Adam: Nick has me overtrained at all times!
Nick: You’ve got to stay ready!
Adam: [Laughs] Everybody was kind of taking some time off. I got back on the bike right about the same time they canceled Indy. I just wanted to get back up to speed because I wasn’t quite sure how long the hiatus was going to be. Everybody took a few weeks off and I was just getting going again. Then everybody starting coming back because we started hearing about maybe racing May 15th and all that stuff. So I’ve pretty much been doing my normal program since what was supposed to be Indy.
Did you almost get to the point where you needed to back it down a bit?
[Laughs] I just give Nick crap. We definitely backed it down there for a few weeks. I think I was only riding twice a week and focused on some other stuff off the bike, maybe getting a little stronger, some things like that, some longer bike rides. Basically off-season stuff. I think we had it planned out where at the time if we were going to race May 15th we were looking at it basically like we were in October or November. So I kind of took a little hiatus in terms of training. The volume went down quite a bit and then we started ramping it up, just like we would for pre-season camp.
Any issues from your team at least? I’ve heard stories all over the map. Did the team have to ration parts, or maybe didn’t have the full staff operating?
No. Kawasaki shut down for a little while, so basically they told me not to be too crazy on parts back in Florida where I was riding. So I maybe stayed off the clutch a little bit more than normal. Maybe revved it a little bit less. Other than that, I have a good amount of parts and obviously I have a mechanic and stuff that I employ in Florida. We were all set there. We had some stuff to test on the bike before if we were going to go back to supercross. We still didn’t know what we were doing. I think this was two or three weeks ago. As soon as Kawi opened back up I’m like, I’m coming out there. We’ve got to do some testing and stuff. Then as soon as I came out here they basically announced that we were racing May 31st.
I’ve asked almost every rider about this. Some dudes are like, I’m so used to waking up with a goal and a purpose, and not having a race scheduled is driving me nuts. Some guys say that doesn’t bother them at all. Where were you with this, without having a race to utilize what you’re gaining each week in?
I’ve always been one where I feel like I always start out pretty good. I think I felt that way this year where I can just get the hang of it really fast. I’m even that way about learning a track. So for me, I guess I maybe wasn’t as anxious as most people. I think I’m in a position, too, where I have no championship stress on me or anything like that. In that position with Eli [Tomac] or Ken [Roczen] I could see that weight is on you all the time. In terms of where I was at, after a few weeks on the bike I was like, I’m ready to go racing tomorrow, as soon as I get the call to what we’re doing. I tried to keep it pretty light. It’s obviously not ideal not to have a goal but at the same time it’s like, what else are we going to do? This is what I do for a living. I drive to the track, I train, I ride a bicycle. It’s how I live my life. I’m not just going to sit on the couch and play Call of Duty all day.
This is your rookie year. It’s almost like you get to do it in two halves. Is there something you’ve learned or gained or improved on where you were like, I got a second chance?
Yeah, for sure. I talked to Nick a little bit about it a couple weeks ago. I’m almost trying to adopt a mentality like my rookie season is over, essentially. Not that I don’t give myself some leeway to still learn and improve always, but having a break in the season like that, having some time to reflect on things I can do better and making a game plan overall to fix it. As a pro it’s very easy to get trapped in just going to the track, clocking in, doing your motos, clocking out and leaving. You really kind of lose your enthusiasm that way. Sometimes that can kind of hinder your ability to make changes and be better. I think the break was good because I can really analyze what I need to do better and take those thoughts with me to the track and try to improve them. I feel like I’ve done that. We’ve changed some things on the bike too which I think will translate really well that I’m really excited about.
You got hurt. You broke your collarbone. How nuts did it drive you to have to watch?
The one that really drove me nuts is Atlanta. A bunch of people had problems. You had [Jason] Anderson on the ground a couple times. Cooper [Webb] had a bad start. Eli was working his way from the back. He had a crash. Ken obviously dominated that one. So I’m thinking to myself, I feel like every time I have my crap together out there and I get a good start or do whatever, everybody’s always got their absolute A game! So for me the races where crap is just hitting the fan, I’m like, why can’t I be out there? I’m a good starter. This would be the easiest first or second place of my life.
You were killing it in all the qualifying sessions for the most part this year. I think you were saying everything time that was not a goal. You weren’t putting on the white board in the rig like, must be fastest qualifier, keep the streak alive. It was just working out.
Yeah. I think it’s easy to get the perception that after you see me be fast, six or seven races in a row you’re like, maybe he just tries way harder than everybody else. Truthfully I’m really good at that stuff. I’ve always felt comfortable hanging out how you have to do in practice. I compared it last time somebody asked me about it after a race, it’s like hitting a free-throw and then racing is like hitting a three-pointer. They’re two different skills. My racing skill is really good too but maybe at this point in my career maybe it hasn’t caught up to my raw speed. Obviously that’s my goal every time is to transfer my raw speed into the main and do it. It’s a completely different discipline. You have to be good at both.
You mentioned basketball. I have to figure you’ve watched [ESPN’s Michael Jordan documentary] The Last Dance.
That’s the big Michael Jordan documentary. As an athlete, when you see what we already knew about Michael Jordan, but now we see it more than ever, this unbelievable cold-blooded, I’m out to make people look bad and dominate people all the time mentality that he had, what’s your take when you see that mentality as an athlete yourself?
I think it’s awesome. I really do. I think it’s cool. I think you saw kind of saw the same thing when people say the same thing about Kobe [Bryant] and a lot of other really great superstars. It’s like they have so much in one area that maybe on the social side of things they’re a little bit basically assholes, I think! Sometimes to be honest with you when I see that stuff I wish I was more that way. I wish I was a little bit more of a dick. I think sometimes it’s good because you can block other stuff out and really not worry about how you treat people. It allows you to have just one focus and one thing only. I do think it could be done in a lot of different ways too. LeBron James these days, he doesn’t have that same I don’t think Kobe or Jordan mentality. It’s certainly interesting to me to see the mentalities and how they translate based on different guys.
Watch this interview via the Instagram Live archive:
I think a lot of times fans get mad when riders say, “We’ve been having fun,” or “I just want to have fun. I’m enjoying myself.” Your job isn’t to have fun. It’s to win races. Sometimes taking the pressure being off and enjoying yourself actually is what makes you win. It is a tool sometimes to perform better. Not everybody rides in anger, like Michael Jordan played in anger.
Everybody’s different. People are motivated by different things. I was just riding with Cameron Mcadoo today. Sometimes I like talking crap to him between motos because he’ll talk back to me about stuff or say something and it’ll piss me off enough to where it gives me an edge in the next moto. And that’s just what I needed that day. Some days I need to pretend like a race isn’t even happening. I just need to have fun and let it flow. I think it’s just about knowing yourself enough to act accordingly.
Let’s talk about the details here of Utah. How are you going to play it? Will you ride during the week? Do you know?
I think Kawi is in the process of trying to get a private supercross track for basically every Friday because that seems like it’s the only day that’s going to work for riding, with racing Sunday and Wednesday. It will be tough to justify doing anything else. We might be able to get a day of riding in-between but if not it’s one of those things where we have so many laps on supercross tracks and we have a lot of training in terms of bicycle stuff and gym. We’ll be able to do that. I plan on driving over there. I’ve already rented a house. I’ll bring my bicycle and some gym equipment stuff like that. We’ll be able to stay on top of things. Obviously we’re not going to be able to get the same three days a week of riding in-between races. We’ve all done this enough to where I don’t think you’ll see too much of an effect when it comes to race time.
I think the only real factor is if it spins people out, mentally. Like, “Oh, man. I’m out of sorts. I need to get back to the test track but now I can’t!” Are you a guy that’s a super creature of habit, or are you a guy that whatever happens you just brush it aside and go racing?
I’m more of a brush it aside. I think that’s something I’ve learned to be better at as my career kind of progressed. You’ve seen me since I was a little kid. I used to get really fired up if something went awry. I think too that was kind of part of a little bit just how much emphasis I had on doing well at such a young age. I think that’s just a byproduct of that initially when you’re young. When you spend your whole life doing something and you don’t reach your goal it’s like unacceptable. As you get older you realize that it’s detrimental to yourself to carry that stuff through the week. I feel like this year I would say that’s one of the things I’ve done quite a bit better than I have in years past is just learn to let things go, whether it be me getting a seventh or an eighth and just kind of brushing it aside. You take what you can from it, but you’ve got to leave it there. It sucks to bring that stuff home and carry it with you all week. I think my career, if I looked at things the same as I did a few years ago I think I’d be retired by the time I’m 25. I’ve taken a better approach.
You can’t take that Michael Jordan approach and feel slighted seven days a week.
No. Well, you can, but that would be a tough life. I feel like I have a decent perspective. Now that I’m a little bit older, as much as I want to race and be dominant and win championships and things it’s also important to have good quality of life as well.
Are you guys worried about the track situation? We’ve never had seven straight supercross races on the same dirt. They say the track is going to change but not as much as they would like because they don’t have a whole week in-between. How do you handle all that?
You just have to wrap your head around the whole thing being different. The whole thing is going to be weird and that’s just the way it is. It’s going to be like that for everybody. For me, I always feel good getting a track down quick, so the less practice time we have, and we’re not doing track walk or anything like that, I feel like that kind of plays to my advantage. That’s my attitude and I’m sticking to it!
Your teammate is in the title fight. We know you’re buddies with Ken in the title fight. You got your friend and your teammate in this battle with Eli. How does it work? What do you do, man?
[Laughs] I try to beat both their asses! That’s between those guys. You know me. I’m going to get sketchy no matter what! They’re just going to have to look out, I guess.
You participated in this eSupercross over the weekend. What a duel! You and 722 going at it.
It was cool. It’s funny. We did a little practice the day before and everybody was giving me crap, Daniel Blair especially, about getting cleaned out by [RJ] Hampshire in that left-hand corner after the whoops at  A1. That’s the track that we did the eRace at. Of course it works out where 722 is right behind me the last lap of the 20-minute main event, which I don’t think I’ve ever played the supercross game for that long. He cleaned me out in the same exact spot RJ put me down. Everybody was giving me crap about it. It was fun. That was a solid fourth for me. I’m a PlayStation guy and they had us on Xbox, so I needed a little more test time I think if I wanted to get up on the box. It was super fun.
Watch the pass at the 58:45 mark below:
You’re a PlayStation guy, but how much? Do you play that game a lot actually?
Adam: Yeah. I don’t play the supercross game that much but I’m a huge Call of Duty guy.
Nick: The amount of time is not talked about as time. It’s talking about log time.
AC: Yeah, it’s log time. Let me just give it to you this way. It’s serious. It’s a nightly thing. There’s thing called Warzone. It’s like Call of Duty’s version of Fortnite. I’m sure most of you guys know how that works. It’s teams. Somehow I’ve linked up with my buddy, Lawson Craddock, who’s a cyclist. Races Tour de France stuff, the real deal, and his buddy Nate. We log a lot of hours on a nightly basis. We’ve gotten pretty tight to the point where last night I received an invitation to Nate’s wedding. I’ve never met him before in my life. He’s like, “I’m just going to leave this here.” He sent me a picture of the wedding invitation. I’m like, “I’m going to be there.” It’s sometime in October. I’m going. So that’s how much I play PlayStation.
Nick: He’s got some tight virtual friends.
When the riders want to say, you don’t understand how difficult this job is, we’re pulled a million directions, we have no time, you actually have time to do logging hours on a video game nightly.
Here’s the thing. What people don’t understand is a lot of our day is between 6:00 in the morning and 2:00 in the afternoon, especially on days that you don’t have gym. I’m driving home from the track now. It’s 1:30 and I don’t really have anything to do the rest of the day unless I want to organize the house or go do something like golf. Most of the time it’s more beneficial to chill out. For me, my mind is racing so much that I can’t just sit there and watch movies or TV the whole time. If I’m going to sit there, I got to get my mind active. I log more hours than my girlfriend approves of, for sure.
That’s your next obstacle for sure. Forget what the trainer thinks. Worry about what your girlfriend thinks. When you found out for sure supercross was really back, how pumped were you?
I was super pumped. We get updates every Monday, every Wednesday and it’s like, “We’ll tell you more next Wednesday, we’ll tell you more next Wednesday.” At a certain point, I’m like, we’re just not racing. Not that I stopped training or anything but that’s the mindset I took until I heard a definite answer. Then when they were like, “Okay guys, we are actually going racing.” It’s quite the feeling. I have a lot of built-up energy. I’m definitely not as happy as a person when I don’t have that goal of racing on the weekends and competing. It’s such a part of my identity as a human being it’s almost like you have to learn to live again. You got to learn to live differently. It’s tough to do because you don’t want to adjust your lifestyle to not racing because you know it’s coming back eventually. It’s this weird in-between phase where you don’t know what to do. I wish everything was normal, but this is what we have. This is what we’re doing so we might as well have a good time. I got a pretty nice house. It’s not in Salt Lake City but it’s pretty close. It’s got a hot tub, ping pong table. I’m looking forward to it. I’m kind of looking at it like a vacation, to be honest with you. It will be exciting to go to a new place. I’ve always liked Salt Lake City. The vibe is pretty cool. I’m looking forward to it.
Yup. Don’t plan on feeding off the crowd’s energy.
[Laughs] No. If anything, it unlocks a different aspect for me because I don’t have to worry about sending the bike into the stands and hurting anybody. I can put it in the stands and it’s no problem. I’ll just have to go retrieve it!