Ironman Raceway

Vanessa O'Brien, KawasakiUSA

Adam Cianciarulo’s path to 250 championship had pressure valves

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When the dust settled at Ironman Raceway last week, Adam Cianciarulo hoisted the red plate and claimed his first Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship less than four months after he took a hard tumble at Las Vegas in the Supercross 250 West finale and handed that championship to Dylan Ferrandis.

On paper it may have looked easy – but that is never the case at the top level of Motocross competition.

Cianciarulo took the points lead at Hangtown and never relinquished it. He remarkably stood on the overall podium in all 12 rounds. With a record like that, he should have run away from the field. Cianciarulo won the first four overalls and five of the first six races. At the end of Round 4, he had a points lead of 42 and his sight set on the magic number of 50 – which would have been one complete weekend of points.

But a final tally of +20 points suggests his championship was never without question.

Behind him in second in the points were two different riders. Justin Cooper was his principal rival for the first six rounds when Dylan Ferrandis took over that position and pressured the man he beat for the SX championship by winning four of the last six overall races.

Cianciarulo was almost as dominant in individual races as he was in the overall. He finished third or better in 20 of 24 motos in 2019.

Almost is the operative word, however. Built into his season were pressure-relief valves and they kept the points tight.

Since the Motocross points system is based on each individual race and not the overall finish, fifth-place finishes in the first motos at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Fla. and at RedBud in Buchanan, Mich. robbed him of a lot of momentum. Those two races were key components in Cianciarulo seeing his points lead drop from 42 to 25 by the time Ferrandis rode into second at RedBud. Ferrandis would not be as easy to gap as Cooper.

With the magic mark of 50 out of Cianciarulo’s grasp, he kept his lead above 25 points for the remainder of the season.

While Ferrandis was winning four of the last six overalls, Cianciarulo refused to give up any significant ground. At Washougal and Unadilla, he finished just behind the contender and actually bettered Ferrandis at Budds Creek in the penultimate round. In that race, however, Cianciarulo had another pressure valve give way as he finished fifth in the second moto to keep the margin at 30.

“I really did not want to sit in the rig for 45 minutes between (motos) and stress about it the whole time,” Cianciarulo said on NBC Sports Gold after Moto 1 last week.

At Ironman for the finale, both Ferrandis and Cianciarulo did what they needed to do. Ferrandis won the first moto; Cianciarulo crossed under the checkers second, which kept his lead at more than 25 points and secured the championship.