Photos | Swanberg
Adam Cianciarulo continues to get closer to the mark. A few rough years have slowed the teenager’s rise in the professional ranks and kept his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki on the stand more than the track. Things seemed to improve over the summer in 2016, as Cianciarulo overcame preseason setbacks (serious illness, broken wrist) and pushed his way up the running order. During the downtime at the 2016 MXGP of the Americas a few weeks ago, we spent a few minutes with AC and discussed how certain changes in his program away from the track improved his overall health. The fifteen-minute talk revealed a lot of about his outlook on racing and we couldn’t wait to transcribe the conversation. And then he crashed. The audio file has sat on our computer since September, but after listening to it again, all of the answers still make for an interesting read and as far as we’ve been told, everything is okay with Cianciarulo’s shoulder.
This year had its ups and downs. Looking back, how do you feel about the twelve rounds?
I think it was good to do twenty-four motos in a row. I hadn't done that yet as a pro. Completing a full season was the number one goal and I think starting off where I was, especially the first few rounds, I think I was way behind with a broken wrist, a few weeks on the bike, and no base from the offseason. There were a few things that happened in the offseason and I wasn't able to get much time on the bike in the six months leading up to the outdoors. In that aspect, it was tough to get my ass kicked all the time. But with where I was, I felt we did a good job looking forward to the next weekend and not getting too down. When you're that far off at the beginning of the season, four or five seconds a lap with twelfth or thirteenth place finishes but pushing as hard as you can, that sucks. But to be mentally strong enough to keep going and to get where I was competitive at the end, I was a top-five guy. I felt like if I was put in the right situation I had a chance to win or to be on the podium. I feel like I'm right where I need to be for next year, that I'm one of the guys that will battle for championships indoors and outdoors. That was the whole goal of this season, to get back to the level I need to be.
Do you think that the broken wrist was a blessing in disguise? Maybe you weren't prepared to race Supercross and that gave you some extra time.
Last offseason I got sick and couldn't train too much. Coming into Supercross I was behind the eight ball and since I was able to do well in Supercross during my rookie year, it would have been difficult to go in and not be one hundred percent. It's always mentally tough to go out there not at your best and have guys pass you, guys that you feel shouldn't pass you. I wouldn't say it was a blessing in disguise; like to say that I wouldn't have wanted to race Supercross, and I would have rather not have broken my wrist. But going into next year, we're in a good spot.
In these last few months, it seems like you figured a few important things out with yourself and the team. Did you feel that you needed to try anything to make a change or were there some risks?
I think the training for me, coming into the season, I didn't have much of a base. For those that aren't familiar with training it's tough to explain, but I haven't raced a full season. Had I raced a full season, both Supercross and outdoors in 2015, I'd have been much stronger for 2016. And I didn't have any of that. I was on the bike three months, off the bike for six months. It was sporadic with bike time and training and coming into the races, I had basically three weeks to get fit. And you're not ready at the first couple of rounds. You go weekend to weekend and try to get better, but it's tough. You have a load on your body and I didn't have enough time to recover quickly enough during the week. I feel like at the end, after the two-week break when my body got to reset, I was eighty percent there. I'm confident that after an offseason of training, I'll be one of the fittest guys in the class.
Because you've been around for so long, I forget that you're only nineteen years old. To be this age, are you still figuring out what your body is doing with hormones or something?
It's been difficult and there are a lot of things that I had to deal with on my body or with injuries. It would be impossible to explain everything that my body has gone through and it's been a rollercoaster, but I feel like we are at the point now that things have leveled off. I'm not growing as much and I feel like I'm settled, that I can get a reading on what my body can handle. It's difficult and it seems like everything happened late for me, puberty or growth spurt wise. It's tough to keep track of but I feel we are at a point that I can do what's best for me.
Considering how successful you were as an amateur, have you received a lot of flack for your first few years as a pro? Or do you not pay attention to it?
I actually think the fan response has been super positive, especially this season. Yeah, I wasn't doing great and there were guys that said something, but my fans outnumber the negative people. When I came in as a pro I think everyone got the general vibe and was tired of hearing about me. And when I came in my outdoor season didn't happen the way I wanted it to. I earned some people's respect with Supercross and people are following the comeback story since then. I get hurt and then come back, so everyone likes the underdog. I feel like I have a lot of support, more positive vibes from the people around me and the fans than I have during my entire career. I feel like before people were waiting for me to fail and now they're waiting for me to succeed.
Being around Ken Roczen and Blake Savage (training partner to both), you're all kindred spirits. There are a lot of jokes and goofing around, not boot camp every day.
Training with Kenny, I think it can be blown out of the water of how much fun we have. It's absolutely still work, but we have fun doing it. We aren't getting ice cream every night and if people saw what we do during the day, they'd be blown away. The general perception is that we're just having fun, but that's not the case. At the end of October we will have boot camp and that's the real deal. Every day you have to sacrifice a lot of stuff and we can't cheat on the diet side. But we have fun personalities and if we do a thirty-minute moto, we'll throw some whips after. I think it's about having a positive and light mindset going into the work, not taking it too seriously. If we don't have fun now and then, what's the point? You'll have all of these wins that you didn't enjoy. You'll have a bunch of money but wonder what to do. We accomplish a lot and have fun, so it doesn't feel like as much hard work as it actually is.
You're still in the gym busting your ass.
Oh, yeah. We're in the gym, on a bicycle, or putting in motos like the guys other there. You have to do the work. Kenny doesn't just eat pizza and then go to the race and finish 1-1. He's dedicated, I'm dedicated. We want to be the best at our jobs and want to have fun, but not at the expense of our performances.
How has Mitch been through all of this? There was talk that you were out at the end of 2016 and that he was over it, but really you still have another year on your contract.
I signed an extension after my rookie year in Supercross. I'm here through 2017. The team has been super patient with me coming into each season and they knew that it wasn't going to be good right away. It took a little longer than all of us were expecting, but there has never been any pressure. All of these guys are like family to me and I have ridden for Pro Circuit since I was twelve years old. I have known Mitch, Bones, and all of these guys for that long. They're here to support me and I want to get good results for them. This season we took a step towards getting where I can win.
How has it been to work with Brandon Zimmerman as your full-time mechanic?
Brandon was my practice bike mechanic when Brett Mountain was my race mechanic. Brett stepped down to explore other opportunities at the start of this year, so it was a perfect situation for Brandon to come in. He's been around the team and in California with me, so he knows his way around a motorcycle. He's one of my best friends and when we're in California, we live together. It's a unique relationship with a lot of jokes and it's nice to come to the race and to chat with your guy. It's been fun to have that relationship. He's done a killer job.
With Austin coming in, everyone has been all over him. It was the exact same that happened to you. At any point did you ever offer him advice about it or is he on his own deal?
I never gave him any advice, because I think he has a good head on his shoulders and can ride the motorcycle. From the second I saw him in practice, I could tell he has the raw speed. With that and an open mind, you'll succeed. Speed is the hardest thing to get and he has that. The media and other people would think that with Austin coming in and being the young kid, that it would make me mad. And it didn't at all. There's no ego for me at all. It's been fun to be around and he brought a good energy to the team. Looking forward to next year, we're going to have a really strong team and I couldn't be more excited.