Chris Lawless came within centimetres of finishing off his Axeon Hagens Berman teammates' work with an opening-day win at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, taking second on the stage in Logan just centimetres behind stage winner Ty Magner (Holowesko-Citadel).
The team was riding the stage in memory of Chad Young, who died after crashing at the Tour of the Gila in April. Young's death was followed in May by the sudden passing of team press officer Sean Weide, whose family is visiting the Tour of Utah this year as well, making the race an emotional event for the U23 development team.
"Our team isn't like a normal team," Lawless said in the post-race press conference. "We're like a family really. It's been two big blows for our team this year, and it's just a shame I didn't get the win today. But it's still a good result and I'll be happy with it. The team rode amazing. It's the best team performance I've ever been a part of."
Axeon came to the front in the final 30km to chase down the day's breakaway, which the team finally brought back into the fold with 8km remaining. Then they set out moving Lawless to the front for his podium finish.
Although Lawless came up just short, he acknowledged that the team effort and performance alone, no matter the result, was a fitting tribute to Young.
"If you looked around you might have seen all the staff wearing the Chad Young T-shirts and we were wearing the socks as well," he said.
"So it was a very special, emotional day for the team, and I think we showed that on the road. We really rode well. It was a shame I couldn't finish it off for the team, really. It was the best team performance I've ever been a part of. But hats off to Ty. It was a good sprint. It was a real fast one, and just to get over that climb as a sprinter was quite a hard thing to do."
The 212.3km stage included two categorised climbs, ascending up and through Logan Canyon on the way out and again on the way back about 60km from the finish.
"I know I was certainly off the back with two of my teammate who helped me get back on," Lawless said. "Like I said, they just did an amazing job today, and I wish I could have finished it off with a win, but I just didn't have the legs in the sprint at the end, and it just came down to a really close margin.
"I hope it was a really exciting race to watch for the fans."