Adam Cianciarulo on gratitude and hunger in his 11th year in motocross

Since launching his pro career in 2013, Adam Cianciarulo has won races in both the 250cc and 450cc ranks and is still fast at it, as a works racer for the Monster Energy Kawasaki 450cc race team. Here, the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross champion talks about where he feels he’s at in the sport he’s been involved in basically most of his life:

“I think as a kid growing up, you always imagine what it will be like when you get to this moment,” pondered Cianciarulo ahead of his weekend’s third round of the Monster Energy Supercross Championship in San Diego. “First off you have to kind of take a step back and realize how lucky we are. I realize how lucky I am and what an opportunity this is to be out there and to be in front of the crowd. To have all of those eyes on you and you kind of being the star of the show is awesome. Most people don’t get to experience that.

“I think it’s really easy to get caught up in the stress and maybe some things are coming your way. Obviously everybody involved in this sport has gone through injuries and a lot of adversity, but yeah, I always make sure to take a step back and realize that that I’m lucky to be here. It’s been incredibly exciting and it’s been really hard at times and it’s been amazing at times and where I’m at now in my life now, I am just so grateful for the experience and for everything it has given me and everything it has not given me. You know, it’s been not perfect, but it has been perfect for me and it’s made me who I am today, so I just feel grateful.”


Part of that gratitude comes from knowing what a privilege it is to still be chasing wins after all those years in such a physically taxing sport.

“Yeah, there is no roll cage here in Supercross,” he says. And we say it every year that Supercross and motocross is around, the levels just keep getting higher and we keep figuring out how to go faster on better equipment. I think the sport is in a better place than ever in terms of the talent that we have on the track and how many riders are capable of doing amazing things on their bike.

“I mean everybody out there deserves a lot of respect. If I take myself kind of outside of racing and look at it all objectively, it is very dangerous and you’re taking so much risk. You turn the second turn at Anaheim and you’ve got to do a triple jump and you have got three guys in front of you. You know you’re rubbing elbows with those guys when you’re going off the face of the jump. It’s not a question mark in your mind if you’re doing the jump or not, you’re just totally doing it. We all just kind of accept that as normal. Yeah, I think our normal is extreme and incredibly exciting.

“Especially if you watch somebody like Ken Roczen or Jett Lawrence or Chase Sexton ride… when I watch those guys ride, I just want to hop on a bike right away. It looks like it’s so easy. I think to the casual eye it’s hard to know really how much you’re physically involved. But that’s another thing that makes them unique. It’s such a combination of flexibility, endurance, strength, and you have to you have to have it all. You have to always be mindful of your form and where you’re at. Then we have 33 races during the season where we need to stay at the top of our game and that’s probably the hardest thing.”

No other form of motorsport requires man and racing machine become one more than motocross and supercross. World class athleticism and endurance coupled with high-flying, high horsepower race machines add up to a sport where a terrific amount of importance is laced upon the person twisting the throttle.

“Absolutely not is there a sport out there like the one we do,” agreed Cianciarulo. “I mean, it’s why we all love it. That’s why I’ve dedicated my whole life to doing it, you know? As gnarly as it is and as dangerous as it is, there’s just something about supercross and motocross racing that is extraordinary. It draws you in and it’s captivating and there are so many personalities and so much talent, especially in these days. People are doing things on a motorcycle and constantly progressing the sport. Just with the fan part of it, I can’t get enough. I really can’t. There’s nothing like sitting down and watching the guys race.

“I’ve never lost the hunger to do it, Even through some of my lower moments in my career and when things got difficult, through all of it I’m still sitting here today and I still love what I do. I’ve been blessed with this love for this sport and the people and everything. It’s the same me through the tough times in my career. It’s always been with me and I’m not quite sure where it comes from. It wasn’t a family thing for me, really. It’s just a love story start to finish and I hope to be around the sport as long as I can and as long as it’ll have me.”

Cianciarulo had 12th- and eighth-place finishes at the season opening Anaheim and San Francisco rounds, but feels content about his 2024 form.

“So far I feel very relaxed with the season,” said Cianciarulo, who has been with Kawasaki since 2006. “I’m having more fun than I ever have. I had a race at Anaheim 1 this year and one where I really wasn’t stoked on my riding and results. It was kind of a struggle on my end there all day. But you know, I’m still finding the joy in those things and in those moments. And yeah, it’s obviously an incredibly talented field. You look to your left, look to your right and there’s a lot of really good guys and I’m fortunate to be out there battling and racing with them.

“The biggest thing for me now is I look at racing as an opportunity, you know? Each round, each race each lap is an opportunity for me to go out there and perform. I think in the past I was just trying to put so much pressure on myself. If you do that, you can kind of start to lose that joy. Yeah. I have that joy back more than I ever have and it just makes all the work during the weekend and all the stress we go through so much easier to deal with.

“I think we always were always talking about expectations, right? Where you expect yourself to be, that’s just the natural question that transcends every sport and everything. I don’t really even think like that anymore in terms of expectation. I feel like that distracts me from what my ultimate goal is and that’s to do my best. I want to be happy with the product that I put out on the track. if I’m all in I do everything right during the week and I do that on race day, no matter what it is, I’ll be able to go after my goals. I’m just really trying to live in the moment in life in general.

While setting expectations aside, Cianciarulo still feels like he has wins in him.

“I definitely think that I that I have the ability and I know I have the team to do really well and get up there this year,” he said. I mean the guys like Chase Sexton, Kenny Roczen, Eli Tomac and Cooper Webb, all these guys are going really fast. Throw Aaron Plessinger in there, as well. I mean, I really I can name pretty much everybody I’m lining up against. They all have incredible ability, so I wouldn’t be out there if I didn’t think that I could be at the highest level and yeah, I just I want to repay the team — my crew chief Oscar Wirdeman, my mechanic Justin Shantie and team manager Bruce Stjernstrom. They’ve all been so great to me and I definitely want to put the Kawasaki up on the podium.”

Next up: Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego and a main event Adam Cianciarulo feels very good about.

“I do feel good, I really do. I’m top 10 in points now,” he noted. “I didn’t get to come out for opening ceremonies for Anaheim 1, so that kind of bummed me out. So I think I will be coming out with opening ceremonies this weekend. I’m excited about that as I’ve got a lot of friends and family coming out. I’m excited for every chance I get to go out there and be under the lights, man.”

Story originally appeared on Racer