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All action hero: Megan Jastrab combines classics, track and school

Olympic bronze medalist not slowing down as she chases glory on the road and track along with completing a double-major at university.

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Megan Jastrab will start her fourth road race of the 2022 season Thursday at the Exterioo Classic Brugge-De Panne, and while it’s still early in her season, the young American has already packed a huge amount into her campaign.

The 20-year-old is combining her WorldTour dreams with continued ambitions on the track and her third year as a double majoring student in exercise science and business.

While mixing studies and racing is relatively common — especially on the women’s side — it still takes a huge amount of patience and planning. And for a rider of Jastrab’s obvious talents, there are a number of hurdles to overcome.

“I’m taking a lot of courses right now, but my winter was really nice and so was my off-season,” Jastrab told VeloNews.

“I got to go back to school, take some time off the bike and then I started training again while I was at school in Tennessee,” she said. “During Christmas I got to spend time with my parents. From there I went to the first team camp in Spain, and then I came directly back to school to start my studies again for the new semester. I was there for maybe two weeks before it was time to go back to Europe for team camp number two. I stayed there a bit longer, and now I’m back in the Netherlands.”

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If that whirlwind of a schedule wasn’t enough, it’s worth remembering that Jastrab also crammed a huge amount into her Team DSM debut season back in 2021.

Along with winning a bronze medal on the track in team pursuit at the Tokyo Olympic Games, the American all-rounder also made her WorldTour debut and started the first edition of Paris-Roubaix.

She failed to finish that race, contracted COVID, and had to leave the Women’s Tour after crash but she bounced back over the winter and is already looking towards an action-packed few weeks of racing through Belgium and France.

“It was a much smoother off-season. I didn’t get COVID again, and I was able to train, and it’s been nice,” she said.

“A lot of my classes don’t open until Monday, so if I’m racing mid-week and traveling Monday there’s a lot going on. There are meetings, there’s nutrition, massages and so much going on before a race so there’s not that much time to study. You don’t want to be tired before a race, so I end up playing catch-up at times. As long as I manage my time well and it doesn’t stress me out then it’s okay. It’s also nice to take my mind off things when I’m disappointed with how a race has gone.

“It’s definitely a balancing act but after this semester I’ll have just one more year and then I’ll have both of my degrees. Then I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself. I think I’m going to be lost for a little bit.”

Nothing slowing her down as she balances racing and studies

Team USA took Team Pursuit bronze
Megan Jastrab, second from left, helped power Team USA to bronze at team pursuit. (Tim de Waele / Getty Images)

If last year was full of ups and downs, it was testament to Jastrab’s resolve that she still managed to draw out so many positives.

Combining track and road ambitions during a global pandemic would have stretched riders with way more experience to breaking point, but with support from those around her and her squad, she dovetailed her ambitions despite the setbacks.

“Last year was quite a shock with the structure of the track training and focusing on the Games and then coming to Europe without any road training,” he said. “That was a shock to the system. I’ll do de Panne and I have six more races in the spring. I’m also doing Roubaix this year and hopefully this time I don’t crash out and I can make it to the first cobbled section.

“It’s nice to have experienced riders at the team but there’s so many young riders on the team who already have lots of experience that you can rely on them too. I can trust them a lot and that’s really beneficial because I still feel like this is my first real year. Everyone is super open and you can ask as many questions as you want. They’re really helping me learn.”

Along with De Panne and Paris-Roubaix there are several other major events on Jastrab’s calendar with Gent-Wevelgem, a blend of track events, and RideLondon also featuring on her current plans. Once again she will mix road and track throughout the campaign as she builds towards the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.

“There are some nice races for me and in some I’ll have chances and in others I’ll be riding as a support rider. It’s a really strong team this year and we’re all excited,” she said.

“If it comes down to sprints then we have a lot of cards to play but after Roubaix I’m planning on doing the Track Nations Cup in Glasgow. Then it’s back to school that Monday and I have exams that week. I’ll do collegiate nationals and then fly to Milton for the next Nations Cup. So far it’s gone smoothly. There’s going to be a hiccup along the way, I know, and everything will be thrown off but that’s the plan right now. I’ll do RideLondon and then Women’s Tour later.”

At some point Jastrab’s attention will have to turn to her contract situation.

Her current deal at DSM expires at the end of this current campaign and the former junior world champion is likely to have a flood of offers coming her way. For now the focus is on racing, while Jastrab is confident that everything else will follow in due course. For now there’s enough plates to spin.

“I know it’s March now and contracts are negotiated later. I know that I don’t have any results to my name as I didn’t really race on the road and then had bad luck but so far things are lining up to where I’m not concerned at the moment. It’s not stressful right now because I just want to ride my bike and race as well as I can. My contract doesn’t decide how I race and train.”