PHOTOS | Octopi Media
After spending the summer on the sidelines, Adam Cianciarulo is back to work in preparation for what may be his final chances at a 250 championship at Pro Circuit's private Supercross track at Glen Helen Raceway. The torn ACL that he hid and fought through for over a year has finally been repaired, a process that allowed him ample time to improve his fitness and race craft. Cianciarulo spent hours in physical therapy to rehab the injury, which helped him get back on the bike soon than what his doctors initially expected, and the next few months have already been planned out in detail to stay up to speed.
"I've had the shoulders and that was basically my first knee that I've had," Cianciarulo explained of the torn ACL he raced with for over a year. After winning the final Supercross round of 2018 in Las Vegas, he announced that a surgery a few days later would put him out for the summer's National series. While many may have taken advantage of the time off in the summer months with boating trips and more open diets, Cianciarulo worked with therapists. "You're doing all of the same work that you're doing normally, but you're just not getting to race and ride your motorcycle, which is why you do that it in the first place," he said of the workload. "It's a mental grind, but you know I was stoked. I stayed on my PT every day with the long bike rides and the gym. I basically rehabbed my ACL in four months to full strength." For Cianciarulo to heal a torn ACL, an injury that once sidelined riders for nearly a year, in just four months allowed him to get back on the bike to establish a baseline of speed in September. "When I went to my doctor before I got released to ride it was like, 'Okay, you need to take it easy and go ride. You don't need to be doing any massive quads or anything like that,' but he said I was good to go," Cianciarulo stated. "I was happy about that because I really put my heart into the rehab and making sure I did everything the right way."
While some shutout motocross when injured, Cianciarulo dove deeper into the sport by watching every race and evaluating his own riding. "When I was hurt this summer, I watched a lot of film and I was watching the races," he said. "I think before it was difficult for me to watch, but this time I told myself I'd stay attached to what was going on and mentally get better so that when I get back on the bike it comes around faster." It may surprise some that riders can gain speed by watching what others do, but Cianciarulo explained that the introspection is key to progression. "There's always stuff you can get better at and always stuff you can do, and for me, I think even last year compared to this year, I'm always learning new stuff. For me, I've gotten so much better mentally and so much stronger mentally. I think I'm really good at self-assessing what I'm not great at, so I try to work on my weak areas as hard as I can. I think it's all about keeping yourself accountable and you can always go faster."
Considering how long Cianciarulo has been in the spotlight of the sport, it's surprising to remember that he's only 22 years old, but that's what happens when one turns pro as a teenager. Thinking back to the illness of his initial outdoor season and then Main Event win in his first Supercross, it's clear to see how much has changed from then to now. It's something that Cianciarulo notices and the maturity he's developed helped in the recovery. "Mentally I've grown a lot, man. I've had to rebuild myself a few times with the stuff I've gone through. Even with this knee, I didn't beat myself up about it. I was like, 'It is what it is and we're going to come back strong.' So far, it's been going exactly how I wanted it to, but I've definitely grown a lot. I don't even really remember how I was when I first turned pro or what I thought about or how I looked at things. I'm different."
With the recovery complete, attention over the next few weeks will turn to training and final testing. The most intense part of the process will take place alongside friends Ken Roczen and Alex Martin at the Moto Sandbox in Central Florida, which will be Cianciarulo's first time at home in over a month. "I'm pretty stoked to get back to Florida and get back home because I haven't been there in a couple months. I'll get a nice four weeks of training in with those guys," he said.
After boot camp is complete, Cianciarulo will return to California with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki for a stretch that will run from December all the way to the start of the Nationals. This length of time will allow for a direct connection to the team through the continuous testing of the KX250 motorcycle, an endless process that still yields improvement to the bike. "You get done with one season and you think, 'Man, my bikes good. Don't touch it.' Then there's always something. Like, there's always a little bit here or a little bit there. Whether we found something in the motor or in the suspension or the linkage or the fork. These guys do a really good job of nitpicking everything and seeing what we can get better at. We're not looking for five or ten percent, we're looking for a percent here and there. Maybe we make the bike a little more forgiving or whatever it be, and then we have to fine tune it for the rider and his preferences of course. It's a never-ending journey," he explained. "We don't get one setting and then go, 'Okay, we're good!' I could go to Anaheim and love my bike, and then have a new shock on Tuesday. Every team and every rider are always trying to get better, so you have to stay on your toes and keep up. Everything just continues to progress and it's a nonstop grind. I think testing is a huge part, especially looking back now on when I came into the pros, I just did not realize it. If you don't tune your bike, you can get away with it for a while, but as far as sustained success, the guys that test and can fine tune things are the guys you see that can dominate for seasons at a time."
So while the next few months are already sketched out for Cianciarulo, there's still no decision as to what coast he'll race for the 250 Supercross series, but Cianciarulo is partial to the West Coast. "I haven't been told that I'm doing this or that. I would like to do West, I did West last year. I've come painfully close to two titles on both coasts, so it doesn't really matter, but I'll be based out here for the Supercross season so West would be sick."