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 Worldtri.com, 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.