Culture

Day in the life: Megan Jastrab

Ten questions with the junior road world champion Megan Jastrab as she makes the most of life on a quiet Olympic Training Center campus.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought professional cycling to a halt. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to pro riders and other personalities from the sport to understand how their lives are continuing amidst the shutdown.

Junior road world champion Megan Jastrab is good at manifesting destiny. You can almost see her train of thought as it rumbled toward Yorkshire in 2019.

“It went from ‘I just want to go to Europe’, to ‘I want to compete’ to ‘I want to podium’ to ‘I want to win,’” Jastrab says.

Nevertheless, like all athletes, her next big move is on hold as she rides out the restrictions of the current season. Jastrab is currently living in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center because she had decided to spend the first part of 2020 focusing on making the U.S. Olympic track cycling team. Jastrab made it onto the long list for Team USA after she and Jennifer Valente snagged a third-place finish at the World Cup in Milton, earlier this year.

Jastrab says that after the team found out that the Olympics would be postponed, some athletes chose to go home while a handful decided to stay and train together in Colorado. She’d already taken the spring semester of her sophomore year of college off and was enrolled in some online classes to give her something other than training to focus on. The women got one session in on the track before Colorado announced a stay-at-home order, but Jastrab decided to stick around to ride the roads around Colorado Springs and, more importantly, be one of the first back on the track when the velodrome reopens.

Location: Colorado Springs, CO

What are the current regulations for where you live about going outside?
We’re allowed to ride outside, but you can only be with people you’re quarantined with. So I’m with Emma and Lily (White and Williams, both of the world championship-winning team pursuit squad). They’re teammates both on the track and on Rally Cycling. It’s been great having them here as training partners. We all get along very well, and I also have been able to learn a lot from them.

Jastrab (right) and teammate Emma White shop for groceries in their star-spangled masks.

What races were you planning to do that have been canceled or postponed?
Well, my season wasn’t completely full because the UCI changed some rules last year. Before, as a 17-year-old junior, I couldn’t compete in UCI road races. But when you turn 18, you can race with the elite women on the road. In November of last year, though, they [the UCI] changed the age to 19. That was such a bummer. I think there’s a rule after June or July 1 [the current] year, an 18-year-old can sign up and be a trainee on a UCI team. I’m hoping to do that so I can race the second half of the season. The rules are very confusing!

I was always planning to focus on track right now, but if track didn’t work out, I was hoping to go to Europe and race in the UCI Junior Nations Cup.

What did you do today?
I’ve been working on one of my weaknesses during this time off: high cadence work. So I do 30 minutes of high cadence work every day. If anyone knows me, they know I’m really bad at spinning. Then, I have breakfast around 9:00. Then, we go on training rides around 10:30. Today was about 2.5 hours, with 5-minute intervals with Lily and Emma. We stopped, grabbed coffee-to-go on the way back, and sat outside. Then, we had lunch from the dining hall.

day in the life
Jastrab (center), Williams (left), and White stop for a mid-ride coffee.

It’s nice, we can order food, then take it to-go and can take it to our rooms. It’s nice, it’s freshly cooked, and it’s a little more special than a normal cafeteria meal.

After this call, I’ll probably do some schoolwork, call my parents. I think we’ll have a movie night.

I’m still staying busy. Not much has changed except having to think about not being able to go anywhere, and planning your outings.

Are you doing workouts? If so, what specifically?
We’ve been doing more base miles right now. One, I’ve never had a base season. And two, we have time. Whenever racing does start again, we’ll probably have a month’s notice to ramp up the intensity.

We’ve been changing it up a bit, adding a little intensity, but not a ton. It’s not full gas if you’re not gonna be racing. Right now, it’s a lot of mixing it up and enjoying riding your bike.

We got to check out some gym equipment from the OTC gym and bring it into the dorm before everything shut down, so we have some dumbbells, resistance bands. We do strength workouts about three times a week.

It’s a nice setup. We have everything we need here.

day in the life
Jastrab planks on the empty campus of the Olympic Training Center.

What indoor gear are you using?
For high cadence work, I use rollers. I have a Wahoo smart trainer. I did a Zwift race yesterday, but that didn’t end well. If it’s bad weather, we’ll use the trainers with Zwift, or just the Garmin for resistance.

If it’s an indoor session, I definitely shorten it. If the workout is supposed to be a three-hour endurance ride, I’ll do an hour and 45 minutes. There’s no reason to make yourself crack doing a three-hour ride on the trainer.

What is your motivation to train now?
It’s pretty high right now. As a junior, I feel like I have a lot of work to do and a lot to improve on, so an extra year to train and play around with training is really nice. It’s about testing things out — since you don’t have to worry so much about the recovery side, you can try different nutrition strategies, training techniques. It’s a change for me. It is hard not to have a set date to train for and not have a specific goal in mind, but at the moment I’m trusting my coaches and focusing on improving.

I want to be in this sport for a while, so I’m just trying to learn and improve on things.

How are you communicating with friends and family?
Text, phone calls, some FaceTime. It’s kinda weird, but I was already going to be here anyway, away from family, there just would have been more people here at the OTC.

Have you received any helpful advice?
Everyone is in this together and it will pass some time, so it’s not worth wasting a ton of energy on it. The weather is nice, and we can ride outside. I’m healthy, and my family is healthy which I’m so thankful for.

Have you had a chance to wear your rainbow jersey at all?
I have worn the custom rainbow jersey with Rally’s name and sponsors on it several times – it just depends on how often I do my laundry. It’s kinda weird, but people are like, ‘you only get it once, just wear it!’  Being with Emma and Lily who just became team pursuit world champs, that’s pretty cool, too.

When do you think you will race again?
I honestly don’t know. I am hopeful that there will be racing later in the year, but I understand that health is the priority and it should stay that way.