(UPDATE, Wednesday, 3 p.m. - VeloNews.com is reporting that Steve Larsen did not die of a heart attack but had been suffering from serious breathing problems for the past several weeks).
The tight-knit Oregon peloton was hit with some terrible news this morning as word spread that two-time national NORBA champion Steve Larsen died Tuesday during a running workout. VeloNews.com reported that Larsen collapsed of an apparent heart attack while working out at a track in Bend, where he lived.
Larsen (pictured, in green, at the Bear Springs Trap XC race April 26) began road racing in the 1980s and was on the U.S. National Team and Motorola with Lance Armstrong in the early 1990s, racing the Giro and other legendary European events. He switched to mountain biking and won the NORBA National Cross-Country title in 1998 and 2000. Larsen also competed in triathlons, finishing 9th in Hawaii's Ironman in 2001, his first year in the discipline. As an "ex-pro," Larsen was often seen at the front of Oregon mountain bike races, which he continued to compete in just for fun.
Larsen, 39, was married and has five children with his wife Carrie.
As word of his death spread, Larsen's many friends in the Oregon peloton remembered a man who had earned a reputation as an all-around-good guy who always had a smile and was generous with his time, especially with junior and novice racers.
On a personal note: I only met Steve Larsen once, at a 'cross race in Salem in '95 or '96. I was using an old road bike with bar-end shifters and road brakes. I quickly tore off my rear derailleur on a branch and headed back to the parking lot. Larsen was there getting ready for the elite race and seemed more interested in what had happened to my old pieced-together bike than he did in getting ready for his own race. I never forgot that -- how a true champion carries himself on and off the bike. A very sad day indeed.