There are high hopes for the talented American Megan Jastrab, but don’t expect to see her on a WorldTour podium just yet. In her first full year in Europe, she put in the tough miles for her DSM teammates, learning the ropes.
His role has been that of servant, sacrificing himself, positioning leaders and being part of the direction of sprinter Lorena Wiebes. In 2022, she contributed to eight victories for the speedy Dutchwoman.
“It’s always nice to ride for a team because I think cycling has the stigma that the person who wins has done it all themselves. It’s really good to have a tight-knit group of girls, for whom you is ready to die on the bike. Your race may be over halfway or the first climb an hour later, but you are doing so much for the position of the team,” Jastrab said. BikeNews.
The 20-year-old has only contested five races with Team DSM in 2021 as she focused on the track, being part of the USA roster that won Olympic bronze in the team pursuit in Tokyo.
“This whole spring season was a shock, coming back to road racing after a year and a half on the track,” recalls Jastrab. “A bit to figure out how to ride in the peloton again and get back in shape for the race. But I came, added a few more races to my schedule and it was great.
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After crashing in her first Paris-Roubaix before the first cobbled sector last October, she was also able to be a team player in this year’s edition, backing Floorte Mackaij and Pfeiffer Georgi to sixth and ninth before finish in the famous velodrome.
Jastrab is also a student at Milligan University, majoring in exercise science and business.
As her peers in the peloton took a brief break to catch their breath after Paris-Roubaix, Jastrab raced on the Glasgow Nations Cup track then headed straight for Tennessee, dealing with jet lag during exams on subjects such as biomechanics, marketing and advertising. She had 30 credit hours this spring. As if that wasn’t enough, she then headed to the collegiate nationals, picking up the TTT, road race, criterium and overall.
Combining sport and education works for Jastrab.
“I think it’s all about time management, but it’s also like I need a distraction,” she says. “If I only have a bike, I feel so overwhelmed, so stressed by every little detail. As I wake up, I eat breakfast, do some homework, and go to practice. It can be good or bad, it doesn’t matter, I have work to do, so I go back and go into student mode.
She still has a year until graduation.
“I’m really looking forward to it. But I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have so much time right now: I wake up, I go for a walk, I’m lost”, laughs- she said, “I like to be busy and always learning. I try to learn to relax and watch stuff.”
Rise of an American cycling prodigy
Jastrab’s academic orientation also contributes to allowing him to more gradually access the higher echelons of the sport.
Jastrab burst onto the international scene by winning the 2019 World Junior Championship road race in Yorkshire, but she had already made an impact at home, beating senior pros to win stages at Redlands and Valley of the Sun this season there.
Jastrab spent most of his childhood doing just about everything except riding a bike with his brother Ryan, who is eighteen months older.
“Our goal was to try all sports when we were 21. We grew up playing football, baseball, skiing, diving, swimming, mountain biking, running” , she said.
Her father was a former college runner who took group rides. When the family moved south to Apple Valley in the High Desert, the kids took to the road BMX track. They moved to the asphalt, sharing their mother’s old Schwinn with downtube shifters, which were a few sizes too big. “We would compromise with the bike, one of us riding with my dad around the block, which was eight miles. I thought it was going to be my death,” she said.
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Jastrab’s first win at the US Nationals in Madison, WI in 2014 made her more aware of her potential.
“I ended up winning the girls 11-12 time trial by about 40 seconds. And I was told ‘if you win the 17-18 you get a free trip to Europe to race the Worlds “. I was like, wait a minute, can this bike racing thing take me far? From there, my eyes were opened to what I could do.
She rose through the ranks, winning more than 20 national titles to become one of America’s top prospects on the road and on the track.
As she focuses on the road in 2022, Jastrab is set to debut at the Giro d’Italia Donne (June 30-July 10), her first major tour.
A season of discovering the European scene has put her in a better position to also judge the races she would like to win in the future: “I like stage races a lot. I like when it’s hard to run and everyone is at the limit – that mental side, getting into the group that’s going in the last 30 kilometers that’s left. And I really like the spring classics; I hope that in the future I can become a driver for these races.
It’s just the beginning for Jastrab, who has no illusions about moving from the junior ranks to the top level.
“It’s learning from your teammates, really understanding that it won’t be the same: you can’t move around that easily, you’re not the strongest driver, you have to be really smart with what you’re doing. And Not every race will go well for you, but it’s just a matter of staying focused on the end goal. It will take time.”