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Most of Massimo Larsen’s memories of his father are related to cycling.
That should come as no surprise, as Steve Larsen was a renowned cyclist from Bend and one of the most decorated endurance athletes to ever call Central Oregon home.
Before his tragic, stunning death from a heart attack 10 years ago at just 39, Steve Larsen was believed to be the only American ever to compete in world championships in the six disciplines of road cycling, mountain biking, track cycling, cyclocross, road triathlon and off-road triathlon.
Massimo, who was just 11 when his father died and is now 21, recalls mountain biking with his father at Phil’s Trail and traveling with him when he competed in the Sea Otter Classic bike race in Monterey, California.
“He definitely had a big influence on racing and my love for cycling,” Massimo says of his father. “That’s definitely a big reason why I got into it. Those are probably my best memories, just going to races and seeing all the people he had an impact on. When you’re a kid it’s hard to connect that your dad is a big deal until you go there and see. That was definitely cool.”
Mountain bike racing is a big part of Massimo’s life, but he says he has no plans to make a career of it. The 2016 graduate of Bend’s Summit High School is a senior-to-be at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in nuclear engineering with plans to earn a doctorate.
He returned to Bend in May after completing his junior year at Cal and promptly won the 28-mile Sisters Stampede mountain bike race.
“I was pretty surprised by that,” Larsen says. “This is my first year racing cross-country since I was 10 or so. I just got a bike in March and I’ve been racing. It’s been going well for the most part. I just race for fun and I enjoy it. Cycling is my passion, but it’s not my career choice.”
Carrie Larsen, Steve’s widow and Massimo’s mother, says that Massimo took a break from anything competitive during middle school but got back into mountain biking a few years ago when he went with some friends to the Lair dirt jump area in Bend. He got into downhill mountain biking and then this year began racing cross-country again.
It all started with his father.
“They spent lots of time out there (on the trails),” Carrie Larsen says. “We had a tandem mountain bike and he (Steve) would put Massi on the back and go ride around Phil’s (Trail) with him. He just kind of instilled a strong work ethic. I think (Massimo) has great memories.”
Massimo has an older sister, and his three younger brothers — Gunnar, 14, and 12-year-old twins Matteo and Marco — are also into downhill mountain biking.
Raised in Davis, California, Steve Larsen competed in his first bike race when he was 14 and was mentored by three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond. He started his professional cycling career as a road cyclist, racing on the Motorola team in the early 1990s alongside teammate Lance Armstrong.
Larsen switched to mountain biking and won the national cross-country mountain bike championship in 1997 and again in 2000. In 2001 he took up triathlon and qualified for the Ironman world championships in his first attempt.
He was semiretired from competitive endurance sports and selling commercial real estate in Bend when he collapsed during a group training session at Cascade Middle School on May 19, 2009. He died of what the medical examiner called sudden cardiac arrest.
“I don’t remember a whole lot,” Massimo says of his father’s death, which shocked the local endurance sports community. “It was obviously tough and pretty weird.”
Steve Larsen’s memory has lived on and will continue to do so at the Steve Larsen Trailhead at Wanoga Sno-park and the Steve Larsen Trail, a 21⁄2-mile path in the Wanoga network of singletrack west of Bend.
The Central Oregon Trail Alliance and many of Steve’s friends and family, including Massimo, got together to build the trail a couple of years afters his death.
“It’s cool to see the impact he had on the community here,” Massimo says of his father. “And I like riding the trail. When you see the Steve Larsen Trail, it’s hard to not think of your dad.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,