Skip to Content

Steve Larsen gone at 39

Written by: Dan Empfield
Date: Wed May 20 2009

Steve Larsen died yesterday of an apparent heart attack at the age of 39. One of cycling's strong men, the former world class road racer, mountain bike racer, and triathlete collapsed during a footrunning workout on the track in his adopted home of Bend, Oregon. Despite immediate attention medical professionals were unable to resuscitate him.

Larsen leaves a wife, Carrie, and five children. He was held in high regard both by athletes and those in the industry. But it was his athletic abilities across a variety of disciplines that enthused and amazed his fans.

Larsen was a member of the legendary Motorola professional road cycling team and, during his road racing tenure, became a national road champion. He was a dominant force in mountain bike racing during the decade of the 90s. After a disappointing crash cost him a sure spot on the 2000 Olympic mountain bike squad, he dabbled his toe in the waters of triathlon, and that "dabble" made quite a splash.

He sped to the front of the pack on the bike at the 2001 Wildflower long course event, and held on to finish fourth overall on the day. He followed that performance with a win at Ironman Lake Placid, and a top-10 finish at the Hawaiian Ironman World Championship. It was a remarkable first year.

Steve Larsen was not only an instant success as a pro triathlete, he was perhaps the ultimate bike-leg game changer for those in the race. He was just too fast, just too talented, to be ignored by those with skills more typical of pro triathletes.
Larsen's foray into triathlon was not just a search for new challenges. He grew up in Davis, California. Iron-legend Dave Scott "made his name on the roads of Yolo County," remembered Larsen, "and was someone I looked up to from the start. I sought out the advice of Dave Scott and ... he played a large part in my early success, so it was like coming full circle."

If Larsen was conflicted in his late 30s, it was over his strong desire for a post-athletic business career as well as his fierce attachment to endurance sports competition. He was an equity partner in both Steve Larsen Properties, a commercial real estate brokerage, and, an online retailer of triathlon goods. This, after successfully buying, running and building his hometown bike shop: Steve Larsen's Wheelworks in Davis. He sold the shop in 2003 to locate his family permanently in Bend, Oregon.

He emerged from a professional sports retirement last year to again train and race triathlons. And, in vintage Steve Larsen fashion, he confounded his contemporaries by his ability to compete at a national level in road and offroad triathlon, long distance and short, and as a pure MTB racer (most recently at the Sea Otter Classic), all at an age approaching 40.

When Slowtwitch asked Larsen, this past November, how it was he managed to juggle all his responsibilities and passions, his response was, "An amazing wife!" He also acknowledged that no one with interests as broad as his could honor them all fully. "Sport has been a huge part of my life for so long and I understand well the balance it actually brings to my life. Surely I miss workouts that I would love to do, but I have learned that it is the work you put in over the long haul."

And the haul has been long. Larsen's professional career in sport stretches back to the 80s. Some might remember Steve Larsen from the older pro cycling days. He was considered by some in that era a harder-edged competitor. That recollection is not emblematic of those who knew him over most of his adult life. He is remembered not only by those who appreciate his talent, but who knew him in business as a man of great grace, slow to anger, transparent, humble, and generous.
Editor's note: Those wishing to contribute to a fund providing for Steve's wife and five children can do so at Remember Steve Larsen. Thanks to Timothy Carlson for providing pictures of Steve Larsen for this article.


Articles related to this one
Lives well lived, lessons well learned
Steve Larsen is gone too young. Yes, he will be mourned, and remembered. But if you knew him, you knew there was more to him than stellar race results. 5.20.09
A new challenge on slowtwitch
The newest challenge on slowtwitch is the Steve Larsen Memorial Ironman Lake Placid Virtual Training Camp. The idea is simple, train a ton in June of this year and honor Steve Larsen in the process. 6.04.09
Lives well lived, lessons well learned
Steve Larsen is gone too young. Yes, he will be mourned, and remembered. But if you knew him, you knew there was more to him than stellar race results. 5.20.09
Steve Larsen is back indeed
A couple years ago Steve Larsen left his career as a professional triathlete to concentrate on his real estate business in Bend, Oregon. Recent results though have indicated that Steve Larsen may be far from retired. 8.01.08


Steve Larsen - Heart Disease 1 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Adam R., Jun 14 2009 3:45PM

The passing of such a great athlete, and one who was apparently healthy, suggests we may want to take a closer look at heart health. Diet, exercise, and a healthy weight are not the sole markers for a healthy heart. Genetic predispositions are major factors that can lead to atherosclerosis, even if the person appears healthy, and even if the person has low LDL levels. Doctors are now using an enzyme called Lp-Pla2 (lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2) to measure a person's risk for heart attack, as Lp-Pla2 has been linked to unstable, rupture-prone plaque in the arteries. I am 32 years old, a highly active triathlete, have a healthy diet, and my doctor found what he considered high levels of Lp-Pla2 in my blood. He said I should immediately go on a statin and remain on one for the rest of my life. I am in the process of getting a second opinion, but I think it is important to recognize even the most healthy and successful athletes, due to genetic factors, may be at risk for transient ischemic attack, stroke, or myocardial infarction. My condolences to Steve's family and friends.

STEVE LARSEN 5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: ISABEL LAIGO, May 30 2009 7:00AM


Steve Larsen Memorial Website 5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Carl, May 25 2009 7:47PM

From the Davis Bike Club mailing list:

"For those of you who were fortunate enough to know Steve Larsen, you may leave a remembrance of him at

The site includes some great photos of Larsen, including some by Rich Cruse. Remembrances so far include a poem from Scott Tinley.

You may also make a contribution to the Steve Larsen Memorial Fund."

My Condolences 5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Greg Glowicki, May 23 2009 6:26PM

To the Steve Family, please accept my deepest condolences. Steve made the average age grouper feel special, he made a personal call to me to clarify an order from his World Tri Store this past winter, we struck up a lengthy conversation from his 1st Ironman win at Lake Placid, which was may first, to helping me decide to purchase a new Cervelo. He remembered our converstation month's later and discussed Ironman Coure d'Alene course layout with me and look forward to hearing from me afterwards. Truely, a great athlete and more importantly a wonderful husband and father.
My deepest sympathy.

My Condolences To Steve's Family 5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by: Daniel Mizzi, May 22 2009 5:54PM

I read a book by Dr. Al Sears that explained why aerobic exercise could be doing more harm than good for your heart and lungs. He talks about very healthy appearing athletes like Steve who die of sudden heart attacks. The book makes a lot of sense and is very well written.

Read 9 comments