Adam Cianciarulo has unfinished business he hopes to take care of in the Supercross season opener at Houston, which kicks off Saturday, Jan. 16 at NRG Stadium.
Like nearly all persons making their living in or around sports, Cianciarulo had his share of difficulties in 2020. It’s just that his trouble started well before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic halted activity for two months in the spring.
“You can’t think too far into the future,” Cianciarulo told reporters in this year’s preseason press conference. “You’ve got to stay present-minded. That was my goal last year in my rookie season. … I just wanted to get the win out of the way, that way this year would be a little more just going after that title.”
He nearly achieved his goal of winning a 450 Supercross race the very first week.
In the season-opener in Anaheim, Calif. Cianciarulo served notice that he would be a threat to win. Finishing second in his debut behind a surprisingly strong Justin Barcia, he was ahead of the two most recent champions Cooper Webb in third and Jason Anderson in fifth.
The rider who would go on to win the 2020 championship, Eli Tomac was further back in seventh.
A tendency to occasionally push too hard caused and recurring problem of numbness in his wrists Cianciarulo to finish no better than fourth in the next four rounds until he nearly achieved his goal of winning in his rookie season once more in San Diego. This time he was second to Webb.
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Disaster struck for the rookie 450 class rider two weeks later.
Pressing hard on a Dragon’s Back in Arlington, Texas Cianciarulo’s season almost ended when he suffered a broken left collarbone in a practice crash. In fact it would have ended if the pandemic had not paused the season and gave him the opportunity for one more race in Salt Lake City before the outdoor season began.
Winning in Supercross is still a priority.
“I’m going after a race win for sure, just to knock that off the list – to get that monkey off my back,” Cianciarulo said. “I kind of did. That little bit of pressure of getting that first win on a 450 is gone now that I’ve got some wins in the outdoor season.”
Cianciarulo got his first 450 win at the Red Bud MX Nationals in Buchanan, Mich. last September. He didn’t have to wait long for his second. That came in the next race at Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minn.
The pandemic continues to make the task of hosting sporting events difficult. The number of active COVID cases in California makes it impractical to race there in 2021 so the Monster Energy Supercross schedule was announced earlier this year with a modification on last year’s strategy and races concentrated in the Midwest and East Coast.
Last year the series was the first to test out the bubble strategy in which all events were held in a single location. This was done to minimize travel and allow riders and teams to quarantine in pods. The 2021 schedule features mini-pods of three races each, beginning in Houston this Saturday, followed by Tuesday, Jan. 19 and Saturday, Jan. 23rd.
Now the sophomore rider gets the opportunity to experience some of the excitement he missed in his rookie season. Most importantly, fans will be in attendance in limited numbers.
“The fans are such a huge part of our sport,” Cianciarulo said. “It doesn’t feel like a complete Supercross event without them there. I didn’t get to race all of the Salt Lake City rounds, but going from Anaheim – those first few California races of 2020 – and then being there at Salt Lake for the first race (without fans).
“From that to the outdoor season when there weren’t that many fans. It’s very welcome to have the fans in the stands.
And for Cianciarulo a new season brings a few pre-race jitters no matter where the series races.
“It’s still the same kind of nerves I would feel lining up at Anaheim – maybe a little less because crowd is not going to be at full capacity,” Cianciarulo said. “It’s a little more of a chiller vibe, but when you get behind the gate and look to your right, look to your left and see all these amazing athletes next to you it’s still nerve-wracking.”
Most importantly, Cianciarulo will get to absorb some of the energy of NRG Stadium.
“I enjoy Houston,” Cianciarulo said. “The dirt’s really good. It’s my favorite football team as well, the Houston Texans. I’m excited to channel some Deshaun Watson energy.”