Megan Jastrab is well-prepared and ready to trade in her junior gears for a shot at the professional ranks with Sunweb and the Women’s WorldTour in 2021. The American signed a two-year contract with the top-tier team and is looking forward to eventually racing in the spring Classics while remaining focused on qualifying for the Madison and Team Pursuit in Tokyo Olympic Games next summer.
“I’m training for the Team Pursuit and Madison, everything is for the track,” Jastrab told Cyclingnews. “Sunweb are supportive and have given me a lot of leeway in my goals toward the Olympics. They’re supportive in making sure that I have everything I need to make sure I qualify for the Olympics next year.”
Jastrab said the plan is to race almost exclusively on the track next year, at least until May, but that if she does not qualify for the Olympic Games, she will move to the Sunweb team headquarters in Sittard and join her teammates for her first season of racing in Europe.
Team Sunweb announced the signing of Jastrab, the reigning road race junior women’s world champion, for the next two seasons. The 18-year-old has not been able to race this season because of the coronavirus pandemic but in 2019 she proved herself in the European junior races, winning the Trofeo Binda and Healthy Ageing Tour and taking second in Gent-Wevelgem juniors. She also won the Omnium in the 2019 Junior World Track Championships.
“It’s the highest level you can race and it’s always been what I’ve wanted to do. Being on a team that allows me that opportunity makes me feel so excited, just to have that opportunity,” Jastrab said of her move to Sunweb.
Jastrab has been part of the Rally Cycling programme for the last two seasons but has faced some obstacles while trying to compete with the team due to the age restrictions to competing in UCI-sanctioned events.
She found success at the elite level, winning a stage of the 2019 Redlands Bicycle, but was denied an entry to the Colorado Classic because UCI rules would not allow a 17-year-old to compete at 2.1 level.
“I’m still 18, and a second-year junior, I’m still on junior gears,” Jastrab said. “I couldn’t race this year, again, or would have needed to get exceptions to race. Even if I could race as a stagiaire for Rally in the second part of the year, they were only doing WorldTour races, so I couldn’t start those events.
“Rally were supportive and an amazing team. They have supported me as a junior for the last two years. The have supported me through everything from junior development to letting me race the stage races that I could, all the junior races.”
Jastrab signed her contract with Sunweb in May before the season was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, but after discussions with her family, and friends in the sport, she felt like it was the best team for her to develop and grow in the sport.
“It was an early-season signing in May. They approached me at the Nations Cups and we got to know each other, to see if the team was a good fit for me or if I was a good fit for the team, and then I got a contract offer for two years. It was the best offer and I always wanted to race the WorldTour, so it was the best offer for me,” she said.
“The dynamics on the team, they have younger athletes, and a good pool of development riders. I know Coryn [Rivera] and she gave me some insight into the team and how it operates, shared her perspective, which helped me make a decision. I also got see how the team works from the support staff to directors, and it seems like the fit that I was looking for.”
Although her attention will be on the Olympic Games in 2021, she is looking forward to joining the team more often in the second-year of her contract, and learning how to race in the top-level of professional road racing.
“I’m planning on doing all road in my second year, to learn and improve and try and adapt to the WorldTour schedule and races. I would love to get the chance to race in the Classics, but we’ll see how everything goes and whether I adapt to the WorldTour racing,” Jastrab said.
Jastrab graduated high school two years early and is currently in her second year of studies at Milligan College in Tennessee. In a blog on Cyclingnews, Jastrab said that juggling professional bike racing and being a student has, at times, felt like a balancing act.
“I’m a sophomore in college now,” she said. “I’m doing online classes from Milligan in Tennessee. Next spring, I’m debating on whether I will be a full-time student to be able to race for Milligan at Collegiate Nationals or if I will take the year off to train full-time for the Olympics.”
She will have some decisions to make in her near future regarding studies, training and racing but she has the support and flexibility of family, Sunweb and USA Cycling toward a bright future in professional cycling.