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Five Minutes With... Scotti Lechuga

Five Minutes With... Scotti Lechuga

8 November, 2021

Scotti Lechuga is a force to be reckoned with in the ultra-racing community. Having won the Silk Road Mountain Race's pairs category with husband Ernie Lechuga, recently winning the Arkansaw High Country Race overall, and gaining the women's FKT, Scotti has hit the ground running with her transition to ultra-racing. She has shared with us her entry to the world of ultras, more about her family's cycling retreat and how to make the perfect camp coffee.

1. Your pairs win of the Silk Road Mountain Race with Ernie was an impressive feat, how did you prepare for the transition from road to off-road (we heard Jay Petervary was involved)? Did you know immediately this was something you wanted to do more of?

Yes! Silk Road Mountain Race came about because I’d mentally fried on road racing. After competing for about 7 years professionally in road cycling, my head was a mess. I put a lot of pressure on myself and had worked hard, but wasn’t feeling good mentally. I stepped away from the sport after a long phone call with my coach that ended with her ultimately telling me I wasn’t tough enough to make it to the next level. I wasn’t ready to hear that at the time, but in retrospect she was right. My mentality was very limited; I didn’t leave my head or my heart open enough to be patient with the process, so the challenge of racing beat me instead of me being able to tackle the challenge, if that makes sense. After a few months away from racing, those words “tough enough” haunted me. I wanted to prove I was tough. So I searched for the hardest bike race I could find and landed on the Silk Road Mountain Race. After researching it, I begged Ernie to go with me so we could do the challenge together. We knew NOTHING about what we were stepping into, so we called Jay Petervary and asked if he could give us an intensive 1-on-1 training camp experience to talk about gear, weather systems, high mountain adaptation, and training for this huge event. It was the best thing we could have done for ourselves, we learned SO much. We eliminated a lot of the gear that we didn’t need thanks to Jay! We’d had way too much in our pack list, and Jay really helped us figure out what was necessary and what was superfluous. We did a lot of riding that summer, nothing at altitude or anything, and just went in completely blind other than knowing it would be the hardest thing we’d ever done. The race was so difficult between the 14k feet mountain passes, the severity of the weather in the mountains, and just being so new to this type of racing. But, we finished! And we were hooked to this style of racing.

2. You just won the overall Arkansaw High Country Race and beat the women's FKT by an hour shy of 2 days. We could not be more excited, this is a monumental win. Was this the plan from the start or did it come during the race?

NO! I never had it in my sights to win or to break records. I truly went out to find myself. After having raced pairs, I knew at some point I wanted to race solo to challenge myself by myself. Before completing this challenge, I’ve always had someone else to pull me out of myself in extreme low moments, when not only is my body fatigued, but my mind is fatigued. I really wanted to just give it a crack, and my mind wasn’t set on any type of result other than FINISHING what I started. I can honestly say in retrospect this mindset helped me not to be focused on results, which is the huge mistake I made when I was racing professionally on the road.

3. You were a pro road racer with many exciting races like the Giro in your racing history. What made you decide to move away from this?

Dang it I should have read all the questions before starting to type! I answered this above. But I really truly loved road racing, it was just that I got too focused on podiums and results instead of simply progress and growth. That’s now what I share with all our athletes, that it has to be more than the result of the finish line. It has to be a lifestyle, a passion that flows through on a daily basis. I had lost that in road cycling, and while I have so many beautiful memories of races like the Giro, La Course, Tour Down Under. They were all amazing, but I regret not having a better mindset to handle those races with more grace toward myself.

4. We noticed you recently raced the Downtown Springdale crits, are you still racing road and how does that fit in with your ultra-cycling training?

I like to support anything locally, so will sometimes jump in even though I’m not training for that type of race specifically at the moment. Criteriums are so fun and high energy, and because I’m good at group pack handling, I can hang in there for a long time even though I haven’t been working on my high end fitness. It’s fun to mix it up, enjoy the local cycling community, and just bump elbows with roadies every now and then! I think anything that makes you a tad uncomfortable is useful for ultra-cycling, because while crit training doesn’t really apply, being uncomfortable does! At some point, you will be so tired and fatigued and you’ll have to push through that so pushing on a bike translates for me.

5. You often go bikepacking with your young children. It is often something that many parents find a little daunting, what are your top tips for bikepacking with kids?

Keep it short, fun, and simple to start! You may want to eliminate extra weight, but don’t. They find joy in being able to take their toys and their belongings. I usually let my boys take something they hold dear (they called the stuffed animals “plushies”) so that comes along for the ride. Kids love adventure, but they just get tired quickly, so it’s important not to push them too hard on big mileage days at first. Small chunks of riding, with lots of stops for snacks, that’s our best life! Also, make the final destination fun; a campground where they can swim, somewhere you can build a fire and enjoy s’mores…with kids it’s all about creating some magic!

6. We're really excited about your Natural State Rock & Republic cycling retreat. Could you tell us a little more about what goes on there?

Natural State Rock & Republic is a cycling retreat right off the bike path in Northwest Arkansas. While our foundation is to serve the cycling community, we strive to build community and belonging in all we do. We are a family-owned and operated venue whose passion is to create outstanding experiences, so we’re hosting weddings, beautiful outdoor dining experiences, camps and clinics, as well as being open for normal reservations for those traveling through. We’ve become a hub for local and traveling cyclists, with our bike fitting and cycling studio on site, as well. If you ride bikes you’ll feel at home with us! We’ve tried to equip the property with everything a cyclist would need, from secure bike storage to bike wash bays, to a fully equipped kitchen where guests can cook and enjoy meals.

7. Lastly, what are your top bikepacking coffee tips?

Oh I am a coffee queen. I don’t skimp on my coffee unless I’m racing! If I’m bikepacking for fun, I absolutely carry good coffee and brew methods with me. I prefer to travel with whole bean coffee, because it tastes so much fresher when ground the morning of. I prefer Onyx Coffee brand, they are local to us here and we’re friends with the owners…I usually opt for an Ethiopian bean. I carry with me a very small travel hand grinder. It requires about 100 turns of the hand crank to get the right amount of coffee grounds for a single-serve with my Aeropress. The Aeropress is my favorite press for bikepacking, it’s super lightweight and the filter works better than some others I’ve tried that leak grounds into the beverage. I bring a small MSR pocket stove that connects to a small gas canister and just heat the water that way. I’ll make lots of time for morning coffee if I’m on a fun bike trip!

Photos by Kenton Gilchrist // Blade 9 Films