Adam Cianciarulo cast a long shadow over the 250 field last year, but he feels much lighter entering the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross season. He lost a few pounds when he grabbed the 2019 Motocross championship, but the weight really fell off when he won the Monster Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas in October.
Making his senior class debut on a 450, against competition he’d idolized for years, on a track with three different configurations, the pressure should have built exponentially from race to race. He finished second in Moto 1 behind the rider everyone expected to win the overall, but when Eli Tomac slipped to third in Moto 2, it set up a dramatic finish.
Cianciarulo finished second in Moto 2 behind Malcolm Stewart, who was adding his own drama to the event by winning his first race back after shattering his femur at Glendale early in the 2019 Supercross season. Stewart finished third in Moto 1, which put him in a three-way tie for first with Cianciarulo and Tomac. They all had a combined result of four.
It would come down to a winner-take-all Moto 3.
Cianciarulo had the least experience. He also felt he had the least pressure.
“My goal was to get a podium, so worst-case scenario I go out there and get third overall,” Cianciarulo said at this year’s Supercross Media Sessions. “That took the pressure off of my shoulders.
“I really feel that I perform my best when my back is against the wall. I’m just a little more focused; a little bit more locked in. I was excited with the way it came down and it made it exciting for the fans as well.”
It’s important for a rider to think he can win every race. Vegas was more important still after Cianciarulo fell during last year’s Supercross season finale, finished 20th overall, and handed the 250SX title over to Dylan Ferrandis.
He could have been devastated. Cianciarulo knew even then that his mistake was a career defining moment. He put it behind him and concentrated on the outdoor season.
Cianciarulo went to Hangtown two weeks later and won the first of four consecutive outdoor races.
“After getting through Vegas and realizing I was fine – I mean obviously it’s a tough life moment when you’re that close to achieving a lifelong goal – but to bounce back and win the outdoor championship, I have felt completely different as a person since then,” Cianciarulo said. “I feel like there has been so much weight that has been lifted off my shoulders. It almost feels like anything I do from here on out is a bonus. Which is weird to say because I just got to the premiere class, but that is how I feel.”
So he entered the Monster Cup happy to take anything the race offered. A podium would be fine. Anything else would be gravy.
And he won. Not only won, but did so in one of the biggest events of the year by holding off last season’s 450 MX champion Tomac. On a track that broke his heart in 2019.
“I was optimistic (entering the Monster Cup),” Cianciarulo said. “I went in there thinking I was going to be a contender – not knowing if I was going to win; my goal was more to get on the podium – but obviously it turned out great with Eli [Tomac] and I both putting on a good performance for the team. … Even though it’s not the start of the official season, it’s nice to start off a new chapter with a win.”
With the start of the Supercross season less than two weeks away, Cianciarulo won’t have to wait long to see if his optimism will continue to be rewarded. The 2020 season kicks off January 4 at Anaheim Stadium where he finished fifth in both races last year in the 250 West class.
As with the Monster Cup – anything on the podium will be a bonus.