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Team USA added to their haul of rainbow jerseys Friday, as Megan Jastrab took an emphatic win in the junior women’s road race at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Yorkshire, England.
The 17-year-old Californian, who rides for the Rally-UHC trade team and already owns two track cycling world titles this year, joined recently crowned world junior TT champion Aigul Gareeva in a two-rider break that slipped away with 2.2km left in the mostly flat 86km race from Doncaster to Harrogate. From there Jastrab played it cool, working as little as possible, confident she could beat her Russian breakaway partner in a sprint.
Gareeva knew that too, but was apparently figuring a sure-thing silver was better than battling with the chasing bunch that had been reduced to about 30 riders (95 started the race). Jastrab’s calculus was spot on, as she wound up her sprint just as the bunch was closing in, then cruised across the finish to take the title.
But Gareeva’s timing was just off, as some late race cat-and-mouse with Jastrab resulted in her getting swamped 10 meters from the finish, settling for fourth behind Julie de Wilde (Belgium) and Lieke Nooijen (The Netherlands), who sprinted past the Russian to take second and third respectively.
“The Russian took off and I was like, ‘This is what I thought was going to happen. I’m not going to let it go this time,’” said Jastrab, who joins fellow Americans Quinn Simmons (junior road race) and Chloe Dygert Owen (elite women’s TT) as winners here in Northern England. “I went with her and just stayed with her and I didn’t want to work because I wasn’t feeling my best. I saw that nobody was chasing so I could relax. We had a big enough gap that I could take a breather and then start my sprint. It was great.”
Jastrab’s world championship title caps a hugely successful season that’s seen the former BMX racer establish herself as one of the most promising junior women road racers in the world. Already in 2019 she’s won a stage at Redlands, come second at the junior women’s Gent-Wevelgem, won the Dutch Healthy Ageing Tour race and Italian Trofeo Da Moreno, and captured the U.S. national road race title. She also scored a pair of rainbow jerseys at August’s UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Germany, taking the Omnium and then adding the Madison with teammate Zoe Ta-Perez (Lux Cycling).
On Friday, Ta-Perez was one of four teammates that helped keep the race together, allowing Jastrab to unleash her winning sprint at the end.
“I’m so grateful for my teammates today. It would have been impossible without them,” said Jastrab of a race that was marred by a handful of crashes during the last 10km. “They were there from beginning to end. I know a few were caught behind the crash and came back stronger than ever.
“It was stressful being the favorite. I had to play my cards right. My teammates were amazing and I put a lot of faith in them, it was nice.”
Indeed, the quartet of Ta-Perez, Katie Clouse, Gabrielle Lehnert, and Ava Sykes did yeoman’s work for Jastrab in a race that lasted just over two hours. The primary responsibility was keeping a cap on a two-rider break comprised of Cedrine Kerbaol (France) and Catalina Soto Campos (Chile), which escaped with about 25km to go and had a 24-second lead as the race hit the 10km-to-go mark.
But Team USA, along with riders from Russia and Great Britain, slowly whittled down the escapees’ advantage. Finally, with 7km left Soto Campos tried to go away on her own, pushing ahead of a fading Kerbaol. But the Chilean’s efforts went for not, and the race was all back together with 2.5km to go.
Moments later Gareeva peeled off the front, with Jastrab smartly jumping on her wheel just as the race hit the course’s lone rolling terrain. The increased gradient within Harrogate and Gareeva’s efforts at the front were enough to crack open gap on the momentarily disorganized bunch that was further hampered by several crashes on the rain slicked roads.
At 1km to go Jastrab was firmly planted on Gareeva’s wheel, with riders from Sweden leading the bunch, which was about 8 seconds in arrears. Finally at 500 meters to go, the two riders made the hard right turn onto Parliament Street, where one last kicker remained. Gareeva stayed on the front, content to drag Jastrab to line.
It wasn’t until 300 meters that Jastrab came around, and the two riders were side by side at the 150-meter mark. From there, the American uncorked her superior finishing kick, leaving Gareeva to unsuccesfully fight for the remaining medals, while Jastrab sailed across the line, grabbing yet another gold for America, which also scored silver and bronze in the men’s under-23 time trial courtesy of Ian Garrison and Brandon McNulty.
2019 UCI Junior Road Race World Championships
- Megan Jastrab (USA), 2:08:00
- Julie De Wilde (Belgium)
- Lieke Nooijen (Netherlands)
- Aigul Gareeva (Russia)
- Elynor Backstedt (Great Britain), all same time
- Noemi Rüegg (Switzerland), at 0:03
- Kata Blanka Vas (Hungary), same time
- Lea Curinier (France), at 0:05
- Silje Mathisen (Norway), same time
- Magdeleine Vallieres (Canada), at 0:07