GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox with .... Marc Spataro

Tuesday, July 15, 2008 | 12:00 AM

Only a few years ago, the top GNCC ATV racers relied on heart, guts and skill to win races. But the competition is always stepping it up, and now guts alone won’t get it done. Many pilots have adopted professional training programs to improve their performance. Bill Ballance, William Yokley and Jarrod McClure are all utilizing the training services of Marc Spartaro and Motopro Training. We caught up with Marc to see what he teaches.

So Marc, I hear you’re hosting a training camp in a few weeks, and you’re teaching some pretty high end stuff.
That’s right. We work really hard to teach reaction times, and techniques that mimic what the riders do on their machines.

When people think trainers, they just think about running and cycling and weight lifting. Where did you come up with this more advanced stuff?
I’m a strength and conditioning professional. That is what I went to college for. I’ve worked with a lot of professional athletes. I’ve worked with professional football and baseball players, and even ultimate fighters. I was able to determine what things were responsible for improving the reaction time of athletes, and then apply it to ATV and motorcycle racers through my Motopro Training business.

Marc Spataro.

How did you get into GNCCs?
I’ve been a recreational rider my whole life, and then I started GNCC racing in 2002. As I got more involved and met more of the pros, the more I realized that if they could be trained sport specifically, I realized they could improve. I first met Andy Lagzdins, who is a long time pro who hailed from right around my area here in Maryland, and then he introduced me to other people.

A lot of trainers, especially in motocross, they’re maybe cycling guys, or maybe they just train motocross racers. You have a wide background.
Yeah, but I believe that the majority of trainers out there, they could train any athlete. Aldon Baker, who worked with Ricky Carmichael and now James Stewart, he could train any athlete because he has such great knowledge. And that’s where I want to be. I just want to be at the forefront at it and make my name. I’ve just really seen GNCC grow, and I knew if I could establish myself with this group, it would just feed my passion for GNCC. And now I’m working with Bill Ballance. What better spot on the resume than working with Bill Ballance?

You go to every race?
Yup, I’m there every race working with the guys. I get there on Friday just like them. I’ve been sidelined this year as far as racing due to a bone growth in my back, but I’ll be back to race the Vet B class. I think that helped, too. I race, so the guys know I know what they’re going through.

When people think training, they think endurance, but can you make guys faster, too?
Most definitely. Endurance is a state of how far you can push mental and muscle fatigue, and I basically train our riders to overcome that. You add some good nutrition and weight training, and you have the total package, and that makes you faster. My training camp will educate on a broad array of techniques in order to educate the guys about doing more than just running, or throwing weights around.

When I first started covering this series years ago, the ATV guys hardly did any training. A lot of them still worked full-time jobs. Obviously, they have come a long way. Where guys like Bill and William doing any training at all before you came to them?
Yeah, they were. I do an interview with all of my riders before I started working with them to understand their exercise history. All of the guys had some sort of training program, maybe throwing around some weights, but when they saw the depth of the program I offered them, and how it helped their riding, it sold them. Now William is a guy who has gone 180 degrees. He’s really into training, he looks great and he’s getting back on the podium.

Yokley and Ballance seen training in a recent edition of Dirt Wheels Magazine.

Seems like it would be fun, too, since you’re doing so much new stuff.
That’s exactly right, it’s highly variable and it’s fun, and it mimics the moves they do on the quad. We try to mimic what they do, so they see the benefit immediately. We’ll do an exercise and they can identify how it helps them, instead of just training to train because someone told you it’s a good idea.

Also, I know there’s a breathing technique that Jarrod McClure always talks about.
Yes, breathing is one of the most important things any athlete can learn. You can develop your lungs to breathe more efficiently, and the muscles that control them, too. There are breathing techniques you can try that really help, especially when you’re under pressure, or you crash and need to get back going. Breathing correctly helps reduce your heart rate, and that helps the mental state because you’re more relaxed, and then that helps the safety factor, because you’re sharper and you don’t lose concentration.

Bill Ballance has such a great record with seven straight titles, so he knows what he’s doing. Was he receptive to a new program?
He was very receptive. Obviously a champion of his age knows younger guys are going to come in and pressure him, and I think William had an influence on him, too. I told Bill that the things he learned here you can use for a lifetime, not just for racing but for being healthy for the rest of your life.

What about Yokley? He’s known as the beer-drinking crazy man. How did you get him to train?
I threaten him!

(Laughs). A lot of trainers have to walk a fine line between military like hard training, but keeping it fun and keeping the guys into it.
The balance is, every two weeks, or every other race, I do a body composition to see if he’s been following the plan. If he hasn’t improved his training results, I get more strict. If he has improved, I’ll slack on him a little bit. If he makes the podium, hey, he can knock back a couple of beers because that’s a celebration. But one thing everyone knows about William is that he’s a fun loving guy, but he loves GNCC, he takes his career seriously, and he wants to do the right things to succeed.

Ballance is in even better shape than ever....and gunning for another title.
Jason Hooper

Okay let’s get some details on the camp coming up.
It’s the weekend of July 25th ”“ 27th, just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. It runs Friday and Saturday and a half day on Sunday. Thanks to William’s connection with the National Guard we will get to use their basic training obstacle course. After that, they will come back to my place. It’s part lecture and part physical participation. We’re covering something strength and endurance, breathing, and something called myofascial release, which is form of self massage. I know everyone will get a kick out of hearing “self massage.” And then we will have reaction time drills. I’m looking for 20 participants, I have 12 pro and pro am participants, but I want 20 because you have more fun and camaraderie. The last day, on Sunday, I have a 6.5 mile track I will have reaction time training.

So you will test reaction times on the machine.
Yes. Different reaction time is a mental cue. In GNCC we have a mental cue, and most racers hear the ten seconds and start getting ready. I will do drills, like if I throw a blue card it means fire up your machine and go, and if I throw a red card it means don’t go, and the riders will have to get it right. We’re looking for a neurological response to a mental cue. That’s how you get better starts, and we all know that’s 80 percent of the race.

How do they get in touch with you?
Go to, or email me at [email protected], or call 443-928-9311.

Okay, Marc. Good luck with the school.