COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (VN) — Not long after Megan Jastrab crashed and badly bruised her hip preparing for this year’s California state junior track championships, her father, Mike, found her in her bedroom pumping out stomach crunches, preparing for the next race.
Megan is no ordinary 15-year-old kid.
Jastrab is competing at the Colorado Classic this week riding for the Amy D. Foundation squad, facing off against some riders who are twice her age. On Thursday, she finished in the pack in 23rd place on the 38-mile opening stage around Colorado Springs. Like all teenagers, Jastrab completed the course on junior gears (52×14), rather than the full 53-tooth big ring that adult women use.
“I was well positioned in the end but in a downhill sprint with a tailwind I was just spinning out,” she said.
The Colorado Classic marks Jastrab’s second big pro cycling race. In May she competed with the Amy D. Foundation squad at the Redlands Bicycle Classic in Southern California. Her performance was impressive. On the fourth stage, a criterium around downtown Redlands, Jastrab won the field sprint for second place on the day. She finished just five seconds behind winner Claire Rose (Visit Dallas DNA), who had ridden in a solo breakaway for much of the day.
Jastrab hails from Apple Valley, California, a place the entire family refers to as the “middle of nowhere.” Megan and her older brother Ryan, now 17, were constantly outside.
“We don’t really do TV,” says their mother, Lynn. “We wanted the kids to be outside. It was always, ‘Go outside and play; go outside and ride your bike.’ The two of them have lived on their bikes.”
According to Megan, whether it was dirt bikes, rollerblades, or bikes, any sport that involved wheels she did. It wasn’t long ago that she was racing BMX at a track near her home. She soon graduated to laps around the neighborhood with her father on her mother’s old Schwinn with down-tube shifters.
Megan’s trajectory has been as rapid as her finishing kick. She started racing on the road 2014. The next season she had moved up to race as a Cat. 3. Today she’s nearly a Cat. 1 and pulling punches with women twice her age (or more) and feeling comfortable doing it.
Her father, who raced in college, would take her and her older brother out to an abandoned Lowe’s parking lot to give them sprint lead-outs. Mike liked to win the last sprint and then lovingly taunt the kids. They’d then team up on him and try to chase him down by leading out one another.
The competitive brother-sister relationship continues to this day, one that has helped each of them become better, faster cyclists.
But is it a good relationship?
“Meh, meh, it’s a brother-sister relationship,” she says with a smile and laugh. “When it comes to cycling, it’s nice to have someone who’s stronger than you to ride with.”
For their part, Megan’s parents are enjoying the opportunity to watch their daughter grow into an elite athlete. Still, they’re cognizant that she is just 15—a kid, but a kid with a lot of potential. As they say, there is no guidebook for raising someone with such grand aspirations. They’ve spoken to other parents in similar situations, taking all that advice and trying to apply it to their child and her particular personality.
Part of the challenge is balancing athletic pursuits with academic goals. In fact, as the family traveled from California to Colorado for the race, they stopped to look at colleges on the way. They’ll do the same as they travel home.
Lynn puts it bluntly. “She wants it all!” she laughs.
It’s true. When asked about her future in the sport, without a moment’s pause, Megan unleashes the wish list: “Olympics, worlds, Women’s WorldTour. Set your goals high!”
For now, however, she’s not sure what tomorrow holds. She races on the track at a high level; she just set two national records in early August at the national championships. She has yet to decide what team she’ll race with next season: she could continue to race with her junior team, or go pro.