On Saturday, Budds Creek played host to the professional debut of a future star of the sport, as Adam Cianciarulo began his career in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series. Cianciarulo has been under the spotlight since a very young age, as his impressive media skills make him an attractive asset to any brand. But because Adam has done so many videos and interviews whilst working towards his debut, the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider entered his first race as a professional with an unprecedented amount of hype.
Honestly, I think that the sky is the limit for Adam Cianciarulo; he has the potential to be one of the sports greatest athletes. I am not alone in thinking this, as most others believe that he can be great, also. However this came with very high expectations heading into Budds Creek; some of which were unrealistic. Although I believe that one day in the near future Adam will be on the top step of the podium, I do think that we have to remember to give these rookies time to learn, and adapt to racing to a professional level.
It seemed as though some thought that Adam Cianciarulo could come out and challenge for the win at his first races, just like both Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac did in their debuts. But, it is important that we do not forget that what went on prior to Budds Creek was not ideal for Adam. Originally, the plan was for him to make his debut at the first round. But as everyone now knows, the youngster was hit with a bad case of salmonella poisoning going into round one. Unfortunately the sickness hospitalised AC at one point; he lost ten pounds in the time he was off the bike, also, so it really set him back.
Adam Cianciarulo is a small guy, hence why the weight that he lost was a big issue. Before it was decided whether Cianciarulo was going to turn professional this year, he had to reach a specific weight; his trainer and team decided this guideline. Obviously, he got to that weight eventually, but then he lost it all following his sickness. Simply, the poisoning left him with a mountain to climb, as he had to build up his fitness, endurance and strength again. So Adam spent his time in Florida once he was able to ride again; whilst his rivals were contesting the first four rounds of Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross, AC was putting out the laps at the farm in Florida. Cianciarulo has admitted that he could have contested High Point, however he does think that he would have gotten tired after a few laps; so there was not too much to gain.
So, Adam Cianciarulo decided to delay his return until Budds Creek this past weekend, which represented round five of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross title fight. In the past, we have seen a few examples of how difficult it is to jump in mid-season for a seasoned veteran. So, imagine how difficult it must be for a rookie, such as Adam Cianciarulo, to move into the unknown. It is testing for a number of reasons, as all of his competitors have their bike setup, and fitness dialled in by the fifth round and they know what they have to do to succeed.
In comparison, Adam Cianciarulo does not have any previous experience to base his settings or his strategy off of. In my opinion, riders like Cooper Webb have a huge advantage over AC already. But, I am certain that the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team will be working hard with Adam in the coming weeks to ensure that he feels comfortable – there is no doubt that the rookie has some of the best people, and resources in his corner. Ryan Villopoto was giving Cianciarulo a bit of advice on the starting line before the second moto at Budds Creek for example – there is no doubt in my mind that Adam is smart enough to utilise this advice.
I alluded to this earlier in this article, but the expectations that fell on the shoulders of Adam Cianciarulo at Budds Creek were diverse, to say the least. Some believed that he would jump up onto the podium; others thought that he would struggle to break into the top fifteen. On- paper his results were not great, but he was deserving of much better. Cianciarulo is so small and he is on the fastest bike out there; most considered it a foregone conclusion that he was going to grab a handful of holeshots – he did just that in his very first moto! Officially, he was not awarded the holeshot (as the holeshot line was based quite far from the first corner) but I would definitely give it to him, whether it is on the record or not.
After leading for a split second Adam Cianciarulo dropped to fourth relatively quickly; but he stayed strong in that position for two laps before getting swallowed up by Joey Savatgy, Ken Roczen and Blake Baggett in the following four laps. It was on that lap that Adam had a little tip-over, which cost him dearly. Interestingly, no one really realised that he fell; so that’s the reason for his fourteenth place in his first professional moto at Budds Creek. Intriguingly, AC kept his lap times consistent for the duration of the race, which is a testament to his fitness.
In the second moto, Adam Cianciarulo had an awful jump off of the grid; so bad was his start that he was left in dead last. Obviously, this proved to be a very valuable learning experience for him, as he had to go searching for lines to get around some of the slower riders; I’m sure that this knowledge will come in handy in the near future. Whilst Adam was working his way through the pack he got taken out, which meant that he had to push up from the back again for the second time in the moto. Cianciarulo ended the moto seventeenth, which left him in sixteenth overall at his professional debut.
Overall, it was a good day for Adam Cianciarulo as he learnt a lot. Sure, the results were not great; but he is already out of the points hunt so do the results on paper really mean much? It is quite clear that he had the speed to run somewhere inside of the top ten, and I am sure that he will do exactly that at Southwick. Adam will now know exactly what to expect in the opening laps, and he will also know where he fits in out there. This is just the start for Adam Cianciarulo, and he will only get better in the coming rounds – expect to see his name progress further up the results.
Words by Lewis Phillips