Yamaha Motor Canada Presents MXP Chatter With Marco Cannella

When Marco Cannella turned pro in 2018, he was coming off one of the most successful amateur careers we had witnessed in some time. Fast, smooth, fit, and smart were just a few of the intangibles that Cannella possessed as he lined up for his first pro race. During his rookie year, Cannella appeared to be doing everything right, and most felt that his sophomore season would be even better. However, for whatever reason, Marco was unable to find the same consistency throughout his 2019 season. Now, with two years of pro racing under his belt, as well as a great off-season of training in Florida, Marco is very excited for 2020. Unfortunately, like everyone else, life is on hold right now for Marco as he waits for the lock down to end. We caught up with the MX101 FXR Racing Yamaha rider to see how his life is going and how self-isolating is treating him.

MXP: Hey Marco, good to finally connect with you. Definitely a little different life for all of us right now, how are things with you?

Yeah for sure, this thing kind of came out of nowhere and happened so quickly. One minute I was down in Florida training with my teammate at Dreamland and then next I was making plans to come home before they closed the Canada/USA border. I debated just staying down in Florida and riding this lock down out, but after thinking about for a bit I figured it was best to be back home with my family.

Marco Cannella and all of his fellow pro riders are patiently waiting for the 2020 season to begin. Photo by James Lissimore

MXP: You’re right, it did happen quickly and I’m glad you and a few of the other riders who were down south training made it home safely before they locked everything down. Since you’ve come home, have you been able to ride at all?

Not really, it’s been pretty cold and wet and not exactly riding weather. Since it will be probably be June before we go racing I think it’s best right now to take some time off of riding and just focus on training. I’ve actually been doing a lot of bicycling and gym work since I’ve been home so I’m feeling pretty good.

That seems to be what a lot of riders are doing right now with this unexpected down time. Obviously with no racing right now the season is going to push into the Fall more, so you’re better to get some rest right now so you’re able to remain fresh.

I think everyone is in the same boat as there’s no racing anywhere. We just have to wait until it’s safe to go back to the track and back to racing. As I said, hopefully the MXTour is going to begin on time and we can get back to some sort of normal. Once the weather improves here in the next few weeks I’ll get back to riding and push hard through May.

Marco is looking to get off to a fast start when the gate finally drops on the 2020 season. Photo by James Lissimore

I’m sure this unexpected time at home has given you the opportunity to spend some quality time with your family.

For sure, it’s been good to be home and hanging out with them as well as my girlfriend. We’ve all been self-isolating and staying safe.

I hope we never have to use terms like self-isolating and social distancing ever again. So have you been road-biking outside or mostly indoors?

A little bit of both, actually. There have been decent days when I’ve managed to go on some long road bike rides. But when the temperatures get to be around 5c then I keep it all indoors. We have a good gym set-up in our basement so a lot of work gets done down there.

Up until the point when you had to pack up and head home, how was your off-season training going? When did you head down to Florida, and how was riding at that Dreamland track? It looks pretty cool.

I actually didn’t head down south until late January because my plan was to stay down right until the season began up here. But yeah, once I got down there and started training with my teammate, Luke Renzland, things were great. That track is so much fun and we had a great time there. We would do our motos and off the bike training, but we would also have fun and keep things light. Luke’s older brother, Cody, was training us so he was great at making us work hard but also keeping things enjoyable. Honestly, being down there was the most fun I’ve ever had riding and training.

After taking a long break at the end of last season, Marco headed to Florida in January to train with his teammate Luke Renzland. Photo by James Lissimore

That’s good to hear Marco, it’s important these days to find a balance between work and play, and then once you find that balance it’s even more important to maintain it.

I completely agree! Obviously, you have to work hard and train hard, but also you have to have fun and keep things fresh. It’s easy to get burnt out and get a little stale with your riding. That’s what was so good about being down at Dreamland, we had the best of both worlds. It’s all about finding that perfect balance.

Exactly! Okay, let’s talk about last year. It’s been proven time and time again that an athlete’s  sophomore season can be one of the most difficult years of their career. To go from your rookie season, when the only real pressure you have is the pressure you put on yourself, to the following season when it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, did 2019 feel like a struggle to you?

You’re exactly right! Coming into the pro class in 2018, the only pressure I felt was the pressure I put on myself. I had come off a successful amateur career and I entered my rookie year with a lot of confidence. My speed was good, my fitness was good, and I was able to get good starts and put myself in a good position early in most races. So as I headed into last year I felt like it was just going to be much of the same. But for some reason, last year I just didn’t feel like myself and I lost some confidence. During the early rounds of the MXTour last year I felt like my speed wasn’t where it needed to be. In qualifying I struggled to even come close to the leaders’ time, and then in the races the top guys would just yard me. As I said, that really hurt my confidence early on and I never really got it back.

Well, unfortunately it’s a process and you have to go through it. You can’t skip your second year, and you just have to experience the good and the bad of racing at this level. Was there an area in particular where you thought you struggled?

My starts weren’t always the best so that is something that I need to improve on. To be a consistent podium rider you have to get good starts as so many riders are going close to the same speed. Other than that, I think I need to feel fresher and have a little more energy at the races. Last year I felt my riding was a little stale, and that made it hard to make the adjustments that I needed to make. Once I got down on myself it was difficult to regroup and get better as the summer went on. Sometimes you need a break to recharge, but in the middle of the season you don’t have those breaks. That is what the off-season is for and I think I had a really positive one heading into 2020.

Marco’s best race of 2019 came during the final moto of the summer at Walton Raceway. Photo by James Lissimore

It definitely can be tough when you get down on yourself. To be successful in the pro class isn’t easy and it takes a lot of things to come together at the same time. As I said earlier, it’s a process and it has to be learned. I’m sure every young athlete would love to be able to buy experience, but they can’t.

I know, I wish you could though (laughs). The good news is that I’m feeling really great right now, much better than I felt at this time last year. I know that when we do go racing I’m going to be in a good position to finish well and get off to a good start in the 250 Series.

One of the items that I feel gets overlooked is that for young athletes such as yourself, you’re not only going through these challenging situations with your sport but you’re also having to go through the natural transition from a teenager to an adult. At the best of times that can be tough and it’s easy to get sidetracked.

No, it’s not easy, but you have to go through it and I’m sure it’s different for everyone. I’m very lucky to have a great support system with family and friends and it’s great to know that they will always have my back. Also, Kevin Tyler at MX101 is amazing and he’s helped me so much during these first two years as a pro. My mechanic, Cale, is also very important to me as we have a great relationship. Life is good, we just have to get through this virus and then it’s time to go racing.

As Marco gets ready for his third season in the pro class, he’s looking forward to being a consistent podium rider. Photo by James Lissimore

Since both of us are Ontario boys, I’ve known you for a while now and have watched you ride for years. I will say that through the years, and as you’ve become more successful on the bike, you haven’t really changed who you are off of the bike. You’re humble and you treat everyone with respect. I think that’s very important as over the years not every young rider can make that claim.

Thanks! I feel like my parents raised me to be a good person and that shouldn’t change just because I have a little success as an athlete. I still have a long way to go in this sport and I have a lot of goals that I still haven’t reached. I remember being a kid at the track and having some of the older pro riders talk to me. It made my day, and if I can do the same in return then  for sure I want to.

Well Marco, it’s good to finally catch up with you. I hope you and your family remain healthy, and like you I’m sure, I cannot wait until it’s time to go racing.

Thanks for calling Palms! We’ll just keep working away and trying to get better. Hopefully the series begins in June, but if it doesn’t then I’ll be ready for whenever it starts.