Steve was probably my first hero in triathlon. He made people afraid on the bike in a way no one before or since has. The most fearsome cyclist since Steve – Normann Stadler – talks about the race in Kona in 2001 when Steve rode by him like a motorcycle. This is a guy who does that to other people, and Steve outrode him by almost 15minutes that day. He was one of the “hard men of the peloton,” during a career that saw him race the Giro twice for the Motorola squad and well beyond. His accomplishments – his palmares – are too extensive to really do justice to.
But despite his incredible talent and achievements, he was always willing to share. Sadly, I did not know Steve well. I knew of Steve because, well, he was Steve Larsen. And somehow Steve happened to know who I was, because that seemed to be the sort of person he was. He cared about other people. I was fortunate to get to know him a little bit through email and through the Slowtwitch forum. I was hoping to make a trip to Bend to train with him for some time this year, one of the best offers I’ve could ever have imagined receiving, to drink from that fountain of knowledge. Not ever getting the chance to do that will be one of my true regrets in this sport. I really enjoyed reading everything he wrote on Slowtwitch, where I was always reminded about how special our sport is because in what other sport do you get to have a back and forth with your idols. And our short emails always contained some encouraging words to me.
But even as I learned that he was more, I still liked to think of Steve as the bike hammer, the relentless competitor. That is the romantic part of having a hero in a sport, looking up to the indefatiguable warrior. In looking for pictures for this post, I found this incredible photo of him at a race in Deer Valley after he learned he had missed making the Olympics (much to the eventual benefit of triathletes everywhere). He decimated the field to win, and this is certainly how I thought of him.
But I don’t think that’s how he saw himself. His signature in the forum was – “Steve Larsen – father, triathlete, mtber, roadie & online retailer.” And I think that’s how he saw himself, though from reading the recollections of those who knew him much better than I, it seems it was really more like, “Father, triathlete, mtber, roadie & online retailer.” And so that is how I will choose to honor him here.