Despite many other accomplishments, friends agree that Steve Larsen's love of his family was biggest achievement (submitted photo)
He excelled in worlds of mountain biking, triathlons
By Nina Mehlhaf, KTVZ.COM
Sad news for many in Bend and the world's cycling community, which lost a friend and leader when Steve Larsen collapsed and died Tuesday night after working out with a training group in downtown Bend.
The husband and father of five competed all over the world in mountain biking, Ironman triathlons and bicycle races with such top names as Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer.
Larsen's friends said Wednesday they are devastated but want the community to know just how influential he was.
"This is something he has called his body to do not hundreds, but thousands of times and this one time, something was different," friend Jim Lewis, the owner of Hutch's Bicycles in Bend, told NewsChannel 21.
After a workout with 40 other athletes Tuesday evening at Cascade Middle School in Bend, 39-year-old Larsen collapsed.
CPR from bystanders and every possible lifesaving technique by Bend Fire paramedics and ER doctors at St. Charles Medical Center-Bend couldn't save his life.
The stunning news has traveled far in the hours since, across the world, from pros and old teammates like Armstrong, and Leipheimer who wrote about their sadness of Larsen's sudden passing on Twitter, and of course throughout Bend, Larsen's home for the last 15 or so years. Friends are heartbroken.
"I felt he's one of the my most trusted friends," close friend Doug Kerkoch said as he broke down into tears. "I would trust him with any business deal, anything in life. He is an affable, wonderful man."
Larsen first started as a mountain bike racer, winning titles and magazine covers and training others.
After marrying high school sweetheart Carrie, he moved on to road races and competed for the Motorola team and with Armstrong. Larsen moved to Bend and started triathlons, finishing strong in the most grueling of them all, Ironman Kona.
"To find him approachable and willing to teach what he knows to mere mortal athletes here in this area, it was very very exciting," Lewis said.
Professional Bend triathlete Matt Lieto expressed his sadness about Larsen's passing in an e-mail to NewsChannel 21.
Lieto said Larsen was instrumental in his young career and wrote, "Steve was a special man, a fierce competitor but most importantly a great father and family man."
"Everyone I have spoken to in the last 18 hours (and its been a ton) local and from the Triathlon community have all said the same thing, He was a dedicated father and he loved that family. The most tragic thing is that those five kids won't get to experience that love again. Very sad for the community, but tragic for the family."
Two years ago, he started Steve Larsen Properties, a commercial real estate business in Bend.
But everyone agrees it's his love of his five kids, the youngest twin 2-year-olds, that was his biggest achievement.
"There's a huge void in Bend today," said Lewis. "And the fact it's a bright sunny day, he would say, if he were here today, 'It's a great day for a ride.'"
Close friends say his heart is being sent to be examined and studied for any kind of hidden disease.
Brother Mike Larsen told magazine "Velo News", the autopsy done Wednesday in Deschutes County, ruled out a heart attack and a blood clot.
The cause of death may have been viral, he told the magazine, saying, "The last few weeks he had been having serious troubles with his breathing."
He said his brother had been seeing a doctor about his breathing troubles and had been unable to finish his workouts.
A fund is being set up to help support Lewis's five children. We'll have more details on that as soon as they are available.