The Axeon Hagens Berman team suffered two devastating losses over the course of just one month this year, but despite their grief the young riders have banded together to rack up some impressive results since then. The team stacked the top 10 in the US Pro championship time trial on Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee, with Neilson Powless making the podium in third.
The dual tragedies began on April 23, when 21-year-old Chad Young crashed heavily on a descent during the final stage of the Tour of the Gila. After a tense five days, the devastating news of his death hit the team. Then, one month later, news came that the team's press officer Sean Weide had died suddenly.
Powless said the losses brought the team closer together. "It was a rough couple of months for sure. When everything started happening, everyone began talking to each other, asking if anyone needed anything, if they wanted to talk ... Some of us got together as groups and talked it out and worked through it.
"The only thing we could have done was to carry on doing what we were doing, and try to do our best in our sport and try to honour their memory by racing the best we can. It was terrible to lose both those guys. I was really good friends with Chad and Sean as well. Every now and then these things happen, unfortunately, and we have to deal with it in the best way you can."
Powless was the best-placed of the team's four riders who made the time trial top 10, with Will Barta taking fourth, Geoffrey Curran in ninth and Christopher Blevins in 10th.
"I was really impressed with both Geoffrey and Chris. Chris is a first year, and Will is stronger this year, but doesn't always get the recognition he deserves. It was good to have him in the top 10. Geoffrey is coming off a terrible illness this spring, he has only been training for a month. He's really coming back strong."
Powless himself has been posting strong results over the course of a lengthy European campaign, including a stage win in the Triptyque des Mont et Chateaux, top 10s in the U23 Tour of Flanders and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a victory in the GP Pallo del Recioto and most recently a stage win and two days in the lead of the U23 Giro d'Italia.
With his last foray in Europe coming just nine days before the nationals, Powless wasn't sure how he would do.
"I didn't really come into today with very big expectations, I was just hoping to get the best out of myself and see where I ended up. I've been fairly consistent throughout the year, but it was unknown where I'd be after the Baby Giro.
"I'm really happy with finishing third, there's no shame in finishing behind two proven WorldTour riders."