It's hard to determine where Steve Larsen left a greater legacy. He was an accomplished road racer, riding in Europe in the mid-90's for the Motorola Professional Cycling team alongside Lance Armstrong and Andy Hampsten. He won a NORBA National Championship in 1998 and 2000 on the mountain bike. Who can forget his first ever Ironman triathlon winning and setting a course record at Lake Placid. Steve's awesome talent left its mark across a wide swath of endurance sports. If Steve was in the field, one thing was for certain, even if he didn't win, he made everyone else suffer trying to catch him.
Steve was also the consummate professional. He realized that his athletic prowess was the way he was going to put food on the table and went about trying to maximize his name and results. That's not a negative, it just indicates that Steve pursued the business side of the sport with the same skill and determination he used on the athletic side.
I knew Steve during all this phases, living and training with him and his Motorola teammates in Northern Italy, attending World Cup mountain bike races as a journalist and finally, watching him try to figure out how to train for the marathon portion of the triathlon without trashing his legs for cycling training. The common denominator in all three were his determination to give his best and leave it all out on the road, trail or water.
Steve never really did figure out how to train for the marathon. He told me that he ran the final 26.2 miles of a triathlon on pure guts, no training whatsoever. That might seem reckless, but at the time, he was also racing professionally for the Webcor Builders cycling team and the running hurt his legs so badly he could not train on the bike for his "real" job. The fact that Steve suffered his fatal injury while running a track workout seems a bit ironic.
In the 2001 Hawaii Ironman World Championships Steve was first off the bike, but suffered badly on the run and wound up 9th. While it might appear that the run was once again his undoing, Steve related to me that it was, in fact, all the water he swallowed during the swim finally catching up with him. Yes, Steve was really a biker first and foremost. Swimming and running were part of the job, but not part of the passion.
Off the bike, Steve and his wife Carrie opened a bike shop, Steve Larsen's Wheelworks, in his hometown of Davis, California. He sold the shop and relocate to Bend, Oregon five years ago and was working in commercial real estate. At only 39 years of age, he has left us way too early. Obviously, he will be sorely missed by his wife and their five children, but also by those of us who looked to Steve for inspiration on what could be accomplished once you set your mind to do it.
Visit http://www.rememberstevelarsen.com/ for more information on Steve's life and legacy.