Frid’Eh Update #46 | Marco Cannella | Brought to You by Yamaha Motor Canada

By Billy Rainford

Brought to you by Yamaha Motor Canada
Week #46 belongs to Marco Cannella from Waterdown, Ontario. | Bigwave photo

Welcome to Week #46 of the DMX Frid’Eh Update this week presented by Yamaha Motor Canada. As you read this now, I am hopefully south of the snow flurries we’ve been getting in the London, ON area. I’m on I-75 heading south to Florida for the 2022 Thor Mini O’s Presented by Pro Circuit.

I first went to Gatorback to actually race in the spring of 1985. Yes, I’m that old. I first went as a photographer/story teller in 2007 and have been going ever since.

The changes over the years have been amazing. The track now turns into a small city for the week of racing! Check out a couple shot from that 1985 year:

The starting gate in 1985. No SX track, no Dunlop tire, and absolutely no sand. | Bigwave Senior photo
Back in 1985, blue groove was the order of the day. It was like cement. And I bet a lot of you are worried I was going to catch my left toe on something, aren’t you? I probably did. | Bigwave Senior photo

They used to run the event during the week and then hold a Pro National on the weekend. The following week it was the Daytona Supercross at the Speedway. Can you imagine if they proposed that schedule nowadays?!

Anyway, the #DMXVan is loaded up for yet another trip south. Hopefully, I don’t get run over by a transport truck this time…

Having said that, we’ll keep the column relatively short this week. Our interview is a pretty long one, though. It was done over the phone and then I used an online transcription program. I hope I was able to edit it down to a readable interview.

#46 is Marco Cannella from near Waterdown, Ontario. As a member of, as Jeff McConkey always called them, “The Fab 3” Marco has been under the motocross microscope since he was very young. He was one of the best as a youngster and he’s carried that talent and speed to the professional level.

He’s had a very solid career so far and is always a threat to win when the gate drops. He struggled a bit this 2022 MX season and then an injury took him out before the series headed to River Glade near Moncton, NB.

We hadn’t spoken to him for quite some time before this week. His season didn’t go as planned but he’s got lots of time left, as he’s only 22 year old.

Here’s a look at his 2022 season:

We got in touch this week to see how he’s doing. Here’s what he had to say:

Here’s what Marco had to say when we spoke with him this week. | Bigwave photo

Direct Motocross: Hello, Marco. We haven’t seen you or spoken in quite some time. Let’s back up to heading into the 2022 Canadian Triple Crown Series. You must have felt like it was going to be. your year, no?

Marco Cannella: Yeah, for sure. I felt like I could definitely compete, you know, and winning races, being on the podium. And if you do that, usually you’re pretty close in the championship. So that was the plan, sort of teeter totter whether it was going to be 450 or 250 and kind of decided that I’d bet on myself one more year and and try and get after it. And I knew that there’d be fast guys in both classes. And yeah, I prepared the best I could and it didn’t go to plan, but I left everything I could out there. So yeah, that’s it.

Okay, so I mean, you’re coming in, there’s some youngsters coming up that obviously we knew were fast. Jake Piccolo was the defending champ, and Ryder McNabb was looking good, obviously. Then Mitchell Harrison shows up. Were you thinking that to beat these kids your experience would be the key? I mean, you’re not old by any means, obviously. How old are you? Did you think your experience would help you, help you in that situation?

Yeah, I just turned 22, so I was a little bit older than some of these guys. But, you know, Harrison is older than me, and I just thought that I was able to beat them and some motos the year before, especially some of the tougher motos. And, you know, I knew that if I prepared properly that I could be competitive. And, you know, obviously I didn’t expect to go out there and win every single moto. Like, that’d be quite nice to do, but only one guy has ever done that in Canada. And yeah, I thought I could be competitive. I don’t know, I thought that my hard work and everything could could pay off. But I had some raw speed that was hard to match and when certain guys got out front they could ride very well, very, very well with the holeshot and were very tough to beat. So, yeah, it was close.

Okay, so you head out round one, you go 4-6 for 5th overall. Take us through that one. What did that do for you and did that change your approach or what happened in that first round?

Yeah, I thought that the first moto wasn’t ideal. But you know what? I was pissed. I was almost got a third in that first moto I believe, and I was on him for the last lap pass. It was pretty good battle. And then the second moto, I actually thought my bike was going to blow up on second lap or something was wrong with it. It was dying and then whatever it got going and I thought I was actually riding pretty well.

That second moto, I believe I was battling because Piccolo went down. I think I was in second or third, Harrison might have been second and I was pretty close to him within probably 5 or 6 seconds, which would have put me in a podium position overall. And yeah, I had a tip-over in one of the corners in the back and kind of cut my hand open and it was it was hard to hold on the rest of the moto. I’m not trying to make excuses, obviously. It’s just that’s what happened. And yeah, it just set me back off the podium.

But all in all, if I would have gone4-3 or something for a 3rd overall, it wouldn’t have looked nearly as bad and it was close to being that, right.

Marco at Gopher Dunes in 2013 with #84 Tanner Ward in the background. | Bigwave photo

So then throughout the motocross series, you hit the podium three motos. Were you happy with how you were riding or how were you feeling with your results and everything? How did you actually feel?

I feel like there were moments where I was riding good. You know, I qualified P1 at Walton, like I had speed at certain times. And then the round in Manitoba, you know, I think I was 3rd the first moto and then I needed to pass one more spot to get an overall podium. And it was like I had such a good first moto and second moto I was dying. It was kind of weird. I normally don’t really get fatigued that bad and it was like I could barely stand out on the track. It was kind of a weird feeling. It felt foreign to me, you know, whether that was living on the road or what happened, nerves or bike set up. It was it was a very tough second moto for me. And yeah, I was one spot off the podium again there, you know. So it was it was closer than it seems. I feel like at a lot of these rounds, but on paper didn’t translate too well. You know, it didn’t look nearly as good, right?

Hey, I wouldn’t beat yourself up too badly about that Manitoba second moto. I wasn’t even on a bike and I barely made it through! It was hot!

Yeah, but there were guys that were riding better than me that I know. You know, I prepared as much or more. And also, you don’t want to get beat, no matter the heat or what the conditions is. But yes, it was, it was tough and hot.

I kind of noticed this summer that I didn’t see as many smiles over there in the pits. The old normally-smiling Marco Cannella and the family and everything. Was that just results related? You were expecting more from yourself and you weren’t getting it. Like, were you kind of beating yourself up or what was the attitude over there?

Oh, yeah, for sure. When you expect one thing and you go out and do another thing and you know you’re not hitting podium bonuses and you’re getting beat on the weekend, it’s tough. I don’t I don’t know whether living on the road out there had anything to do with it. It was just something different. I wasn’t used to. We had a really good setup, so I don’t think that’s what it was. And yeah, maybe I needed to enjoy myself at the races a little bit more and have some more fun and it could have translated into some better results. But when you’re expecting to be fighting for podiums every weekend and not getting it, it was hard to keep a smile on my face, for sure.

That was a really tough class last year. And I mean, you weren’t that far off to have everybody thinking the ship was sinking, but then you did have some issues and we didn’t see you out east. What happened?

So, we raced Walton, which was looking like a decent day, I went down pretty hard in the second moto on the last lap. Like I said, it started well, you know, qualifying P1 and that was the first race (Josiah) Natske showed up and we know how well he was riding and to qualify ahead of him was good.

We went to Gopher Dunes and in the second moto it was weird because I didn’t crash. I don’t know if I over-extended my elbow or tweaked it doing something, battling with my old pal Cole (Thompson). He might have been pushing me too hard in the second mode or something, but yeah, I thought it was going to be okay. I couldn’t ride all week. And then at Sand Del Lee I went down, I think in both motos, whatever, tough day.

But after that my arm completely swelled up and I couldn’t move it. I had to go get an ultrasound done and it showed that I had torn the main ligament in my elbow and they expected it was to be 4 to 6 weeks recovery and yeah, that was pretty much it for me.

I would have liked to try and go out but they said any more movement or sudden charge it would have a good chance of fully tearing, which would require surgery. I just thought it wasn’t worth the risk. I couldn’t even ride. I tried to once and made it about six laps and my arm swelled right back up again. So yeah, it’s tough when you don’t break a bone, you know, people don’t consider it quite as much of an injury. But yeah, it was it was tough. It was bummer for sure.

Marco at the 2015 Mini O’s with Joey Crown. | Bigwave photo

It was strange because I would go to your pits like, where is Marco? And it seemed like nobody had an answer for me. Is there a reason nobody could just say he pulled a ligament in his elbow? Like, I just couldn’t seem to get an answer?

Yeah, I thought it was obviously a bit of an odd situation. It sucks when the sponsors expect you to be out there racing and, like I said, if I would have had a broken arm it’s easier to explain than maybe a torn ligament. Or they could have thought that I should have been out there racing through it. I don’t actually know because I wasn’t communicating with the sponsors and everything.

But yeah, a bit odd that they couldn’t really just come out and say it was an injury. I’m not sure what the reasons really behind that was. I communicated my end and then I don’t know why it was…I don’t know why it was kind of hush hush.

And I think that’s exactly what it was. Some people understood the extent of what I was going through, and then maybe some people thought that it should have been, you know, manning up or something and getting out on the track and racing. But they didn’t maybe understand my point where I’m not going to do permanent damage to my elbow to, first of all, not even be able to compete where I want to and maybe roll around in 10th.

But yeah, it was kind of odd. I don’t know if people thought that I was milking it because I wasn’t doing well or doing something like that, but anyone who knows me knows that if I sign up to do something, man, I’m going to go until I can’t anymore and give it my best every single weekend, which I felt like I was doing up until that point. So like you said, it is it was an odd situation.

It was a legit injury, man. I would have loved to have been out there racing. Like, you think it was fun for me to not hit any bonuses? I would have loved to try and go make some money and prove myself, because when you go out with an injury, man, the contracts aren’t the best for the next year. So why would I, you know, why would I do that? There is no point. So like you said, weird, that’s for sure.

What were you able to do? Were you able to do anything athletically?

There wasn’t much to do, man. It’s kind of weird when you spend four or five days a week going to the track every week, preparing, going to the races to all of a sudden, hey, you’re not getting on a plane to go to Moncton. I was doing a lot of physio. I was going to get laser done and acupuncture, so I was doing a lot of that. I would still cycle. Obviously, there was no weight training at that point.

I try and have some fun, get out and, you know, play disc golf when I could. But it still really wasn’t in the cards for a bit because I didn’t want to be furthering the injury. I know it was my left elbow, but still, you know, I was trying to recover as fast as possible, so nothing much was going on.

So, I guess I should have specified that. It’s your left elbow and you’re right-handed.

Yeah, so that was a bonus. At least I could do some stuff with my right arm, but it was kind of boring, actually.

Marco finished 4-6 for 5th overall at the 2022 season opener at Whispering Pines in Kamloops, BC. | Bigwave photo

Okay, now, you touched on two things I want to ask you about. How is your cycling these days? You’ve been able to get out a lot?

Oh, it was strong all winter. It was really, really strong. I mean, I got out for a ride with some of the boys at GPF and we did 100K rides and stuff. And yeah, I felt really, really good on the bicycle. I was putting up good numbers. I had a lot of K in. And then throughout the season, if I was at home for the first portion, I think I would have rode more because I didn’t have my bike out west, which kind of sucked. But yeah, when I got home and I rode, I rode a lot, for sure. I’d say just as much as the year before, and I actually ended up getting a mountain bike.

Nice. Okay, you also touched on disc golf. That’s something that’s kind of near to my heart from living out in Vancouver. It sounds like you caught the bug pretty bad.

I sure did. Like a lot of people who race motocross probably get obsessed with things and go all in. It’s that way with me as well and yeah definitely got obsessed playing a lot and joining some local leagues and playing tournaments and yeah, my girlfriend makes fun of me but we get to go out and have some fun and at the end of the day, I think she likes it. It’s low stress compared to motocross, so we enjoy it.

Do you ever call it “Frolf”?

I do not. It’s disc golf for me.

How many discs do you have?

All of the discs. I don’t know, probably at least 50.

Jeez. We kind of thought maybe you would be healed up for the Supercross/Arenacross portion. Was that ever considered for you?

It was. We weren’t sure what it was going to look like from team perspective and what the logistics were going to be, but I was going to try and get prepared for it. Unfortunately, there was no way I was going to be ready for the first round. I tried to ride, and then once they kind of got Westen (Wrozyna) in that spot, I think it was too far gone. I rode recently and then I rode a couple of times after that. I didn’t I didn’t think, in one week, I could get to the level I needed to to try and compete once my elbow felt good. So I said to myself, heal properly and, and yeah, not worry about it.

How are you now? Are you 100%, like, do you have a bike? Have you been on a dirt bike at all or what?

I do, I do have a bike. The weather is going downhill quite rapidly, so I haven’t been able to ride too much, unfortunately. But yeah, I know I’m fully healed. I just got a PR bench press in the gym so the elbows feeling good.

All right, so what are you going to do this winter? What’s the game plan going into the winter months?

I have no idea at this point. I don’t know what exactly my deal is going to entail for going into next year. I haven’t got any offers as of this point from anyone. But obviously Kevin‘s (Tyler) really open with me and I’m hoping that there’ll be a spot available at the team again for next year. I’m thinking 450 at this point. But yeah, until something, you know, gets sent to me I can’t really make any plans until I know exactly what’s going on.

Is it the kind of situation where your first call would be to Kevin and then do you start looking around or you just wait and hear what Kevin has to say? How do you plan this out?

Yeah, like I said, obviously we’re great friends and he’s always open with me, so if I did have some other people interested, I would let him know. Everyone would be on the same page and open about it. But, you know, there’s not too many spots to go around out there. A lot of the main ones are filled with good guys, so, yeah, I don’t know yet. I might have to reach out and contact some people, but usually these deals aren’t done until the end of December, January-ish, from my experience anyway, so I’m not too in a rush. We’ll see what happens. Obviously, if he says there’s nowhere for me to go, I’ll have to start looking.

Okay, worst case scenario: What what would you do if there was no [top level] ride for next season? What would you do?

Um, I haven’t really thought of that, honestly. I just believe that, with my skill set, someone would at least give me another chance with the teams that are out there. But I don’t know, maybe I’d have to transition to “Frolf” full time!

Does this the whole thing kind of make you more motivated to come out and kind of prove a point next year? Are you looking forward to kind of getting the chance to do that?

Yeah, for sure. It doesn’t really bother me what people think or what people don’t think. I know what I can do, what I’m capable of. It’s just I find it kind of funny how quickly everyone forgets and not necessarily forgets but almost writes you off. It’s just like, man, it’s stuff happens. There’s like eight or nine races and things don’t go well for people some years, you know? Some years you put it together and some years you don’t. And we’ve seen that with all the best guys, right? So yeah, I hope to get to the highest level I can again. And you know, if that can’t happen, it can’t happen. You don’t know unless you try.

Hey, I think some people might be surprised that you’re only 22. I mean, you’re just getting rolling, really. You’ve got lots of good years left if you if you want them, right?

Yeah, yeah, for sure. I think the best is yet to come. I think that maybe getting on the 450 could excite me, and a lot of people think that my style and the way I ride a bike could translate well on a 450, and I’m getting stronger as I get older and everything. So yeah, I think that I’d be excited to get on a 450 and see what I could do, you know, on the right program. I think it’ll be fun.

I’m on that list of people who think you’d be a really good 450 rider, that’s for sure.

Thank you. I appreciate that.

The questions remains, where will Marco land in 2023? | Bigwave photo

Now what? What bike do you have there in the garage? What do you ride when you go riding?

I just got the the 250 F right now. I haven’t had a 450 for a little bit. I always have one for the winter and then KT gets them back midsummer-ish because I’m not riding them throughout the season.

Well, I think we covered everything there. How’s Sam doing?

Sam is good. He’s always hard on the farm life right now. We just had some of our cows go to the butcher, so we’ll have some fresh meat soon. And we’re getting fresh milk and eggs every morning. It’s quite nice. Like you really can’t complain.

All right, Marco, thank you very much for running us through that and everything.

For sure. It’s nice to talk about motocross for a change. It’s been a little bit, so yeah, that was fun.

Well, it was nice for me to talk about disc golf.

I do too much about that right now.

All right, well, thank you for the chat and good luck. Who do you want to thank, Marco.

Oh yeah, sure. TI’d like to thank Yamaha, FXR, Donk, and the mechanics on the team and everyone who made it work. And anyone still in my corner, man, rooting for me. I appreciate all you guys it’s nice.

OK, I will be sure to scour the entry list sheets posted on the board looking for Canadians when I get to Gatorback – that’s job 1. I’ll do some ‘Walk and Talks’ throughout the week to give you a feel for what’s going on around the track and in the pits.

All that’s left to do now is actually get there. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend, everyone.

We’ll let this young fella say it this week: “See you at the races...” | Bigwave photo