Although Larsen grew up a long way from the Mecca of motocross, California, the early to late 2000s saw an influx of top talent from the east.
“I came up with [Austin] Stroupe, [Trey] Canard, [Nico] Izzi, [Les] Smith, [Broc] Tickle, [Taylor] Futrell, the list goes on,” Larsen said about the top talent that pushed him to where he is today. “I probably wouldn’t be where I am today if not for those guys, because I wouldn’t have been pushing myself to beat them.”
Larsen rose through the amateur ranks riding for the iconic Team Green Kawasaki. Racing against the likes of Izzi, Stroupe, Canard, Wharton and more, Larsen more than held his own; winning numerous amateur national championships throughout his illustrious career, including two titles at Loretta Lynn Ranch and a share of the 2008 Horizon Award—awarded to the top amateur rider in the country—along with Darryn Durham.
Winning the Horizon Award comes with a certain prestige. It'a an honor, but one that provides pressure to fill the shoes of those before you. Especially during the 2000s when names like James Stewart, Davi Millsaps, Mike Alessi, Ryan Villopoto, Josh Hill and Trey Canard all hoisted the trophy.
The pressure of winning the prestigious award didn’t faze Larsen. But for the laid back southerner, not much does.
“Whenever I went to Loretta’s and won there, it was just an accomplishment that I had set out to do,” he said. “It was definitely a huge deal to win it [the Horizon Award], but it didn’t add any pressure to go win at the pro ranks. I never looked at it as I had these huge shoes to fill.”
The following year marked Larsen’s first professional season, which came in a class that read more like a who’s who of motocross than a Regional Lites Class. Riding under the guidance of Bobby Hewitt and Team Canidae/Motosport Kawasaki—which has since transformed into Rockstar Energy Suzuki—Larsen would finish his rookie supercross campaign tenth in points—behind such names as Ryan Dungey, Jake Weimer, Ryan Morais, Justin Brayton, Chris Blose, and Trey Canard.
Then came the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and the beginning of a string of injuries that have derailed Larsen’s career. A wrist injury at Freestone stalled a promising rookie season—although he would return later in the season—eventually leaving Larsen on the outside looking in come contract time.
A proven team in Australia, which had plans on coming stateside in 2011, offered Larsen a chance. But it came with one hitch; he would have to proven himself in Australia first.
“When I went down there I didn’t really have anything on the table. Luckily the guys at JDR Motorsports stepped up and said, ‘We believe in you and we want you to come down here and prove yourself,’" Larsen said.
“They had told me about their plans to have a team in the U.S. the following year and it ended up being a great experience to be, 18, 19 years old and move to a foreign country and meet some great people.”
Success came quickly down under. Larsen dominated the Australian MX Nationals Pro Lites Class (250) and then eked out a hotly contested, controversy-laiden Australian Supercross Championship over current J-Star JDR teammate Matt Moss. The ecstasy of winning two championships would quickly diminish, though, as 2010 would mark the last time Larsen would get through a season unscathed.
Larsen returned to the States in 2011, under the J-Star JDR Motorsports KTM tent, smothered with expectations of living up to his highly touted amateur career. He looked fast, fit and ready for his first race of the season, the Lites East opener in Houston, but he broke the navicular (scaphoid) in his wrist at that race. He tried to race through it, with five top-tens and three top-fives through six rounds, but the injury would cut short a efficacious beginning and eventually lead to an abbreviated Lucas Oil Pro Motocross campaign.
First, the wrist injury kept him on the sidelines for motocross. Then, after he healed, came another big setback, this time in the form of three cracked vertebrae (C-4, C-5 and C-6) at Unadilla. With a season riddled with injuries, Larsen quickly fell off the radar.
While Larsen was able to avoid having surgery, it still meant another two months off the bike, another grinding rehabilitation and another missed opportunity. While the road back was exhausting, he never lost sight of his goals.
“I never lost my path and went off and did other things. I’ve always been set in stone in racing and that’s always my top priority,” he says.
But just weeks before the start of the 2012 Western Region Lites series, Larsen was dealt another blow—suffering a broken bone in his hand, relegating him to the Eastern Regional Lites Class. Larsen was never able to get the ball rolling in 2012, securing only one top ten through five rounds en route to a disappointing start to the season. Then in Toronto, things came unraveled. A crash in a rhythm section during practice resulted in a torn ACL and foot injury, ending another season prematurely.
“It’s been tough. It’s never something that I had gone through in the past,” detailed Larsen on his recent bout with injuries. “It’s been a challenge, but there are always pro and cons to everything.
“You go from being so busy to not doing anything at all and its like, ‘What do I do with my time?’ That’s when a lot of guys go out and find other things in life that aren’t always the most productive,” he continues.
For young riders lined with a seemingly endless bank account, and the temptations of the wild and carefree California lifestyle, injuries can be hazardous to a career. For Larsen, who concedes that he enjoys keeping to himself, his recent stint on the sidelines has allowed him to pursue opportunities outside of motocross, and begin planning for a future beyond the fences.
“With this injury I have started working with a company called ViSalus [a protein supplement company] and have become a promoter with them.
“It is something that I look at it as, you don’t have a long span in this industry and your career is not going to last forever,” he continues. “I feel that a lot of guys don’t look at it like that and they don’t go about it the right ways to sure themselves up in the future.
“I understand that you can only race a dirt bike for so long and once it’s gone you have to have something to fall back on.”
After two injury riddled seasons with J-Star JDR Motorsports KTM, in which Larsen has missed a combined 23 races in Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, the team and Larsen will part ways at years end.
“The team feels that it’s best that I explore my other opportunities within motocrosss, and I guess that means that at the end of the year I will be out shopping for a ride,” explained Larsen on the recent split with J-Star JDR.
Larsen has been in talks with many teams, but has yet to solidify anything for 2013. And while he isn’t against going the privateer route or even making the journey back to Australia, one thing he’s unwilling to budge on is riding for free.