RAAM Finisher Randy Van Zee Killed

, , | UltraRob | Sunday, April 6th, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Former Race Across America Director, Jim Pitre, posted the sad news to the RAAM Yahoo Group that Randy Van Zee was killed yesterday while riding his bike. He was struck and killed instantly by a vehicle from behind as he was riding west into the setting sun near his home last evening.

Randy is survived by his wife, Denise and family in Sheldon, IA. A funeral is planned Tuesday afternoon April 8th at Vander Ploeg funeral home in Sheldon. My prayers are with his family.

In 2004 Randy finished RAAM even though he had crashed and couldn’t get on or off is bike by himself. After finishing RAAM, he went to the hospital and found out that he had a broken pelvis. In 2006, the year I attempted RAAM, he was planning to race again but a training accident kept him from racing.

Quote from Danny Chews comments in 2004 from the UMCA website.

The last finisher in the solo race was 52-year-old Randy Van Zee of Sheldon, IA. He finished in eighth place (second night time solo finisher) on Friday morning at 2:40 a.m. with a time of 11:16:26 over eight hours behind Moonen.

Riders have to finish in less than 12 days and 2 hours to be official, i.e., by noon, Friday, July 2. Randy had over nine hours to spare. He had the classic solo RAAM finish – exhausted with failed neck muscles and terribly swollen feet and ankles; he had to be helped off his bicycle by crewmembers. Having an all rookie crew with just two minivans, he slept on cement at times. Waking up at 4 a.m. to ride before work every day in training finally paid off, though he said, “I never trained enough for RAAM.” When his neck gave out on him in New Mexico, he had to start wearing an Allen Larsen-inspired neck brace. His friends made it after they watched Larsen’s RAAM videotape. Two ladies he works with brought him this device and adjusted it on him. He crashed near Troy, OH, injured his groin and cracked his pelvis. Although he couldn’t walk, he could still ride!

Randy’s daughter Rachel lives in Germany and flew to Atlantic City to see her father finish. Her husband Chris (serving the USA in Iraq) learned by e-mail of Randy’s finish. Standing very proudly on the Boardwalk, Randy said, “If you can do RAAM, you can do anything.” So how can a 52-year old, full time worker and grandfather finish RAAM while other much younger men training full time have to drop out? The difference has to be in attitude. Van Zee had an iron-willed desire to make it to the finish line regardless of whatever obstacles were thrown into his way. When his neck muscles gave out in New Mexico, he could have thrown in the towel. When his feet and ankles became painfully swollen, he could have checked into some hospital and had a doctor tell him things will only get worse if he keeps riding, but he didn’t. My vote for the Ian Sandbach inspiration award would have clearly gone to Randy Van Zee, but then the award couldn’t have been handed out at the awards banquet on Wednesday evening. So I hereby create a new award called Chew’s Most Tired Award given to the solo rider who finishes looking the most exhausted/beaten-up thus embodying the true spirit of RAAM. Few people got to see Randy finish in the wee hours of the morning that night (many officials, media people, riders, and crew had already left for home), but those who did will forever remember Van Zee’s courageous/heroic finish. His neck muscles will heal and the swelling of his feet and ankles will go down, but his finish will never be forgotten. Randy became the 169th person (including unofficial fin ishers) to finish solo RAAM – a number far less than those people who have climbed to the top of Mt. Everest.

“Van Zee had an iron-willed desire to make it to the finish line.”

Related Links: Randy Van Zee Out of RAAM | Outside Magazine Article on Bob Breedlove

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7 Responses to “RAAM Finisher Randy Van Zee Killed”

  1. Jill says:

    That is sad news. But it sounds like the guy had a great life.

  2. Fonk says:

    Man, that sucks. One one hand I get angry when I read about these experienced cyclists getting killed out on training rides, as I know they know and follow the rules of the road well, thus making it painfully obvious that the accident was due to driver negligence; usually just not bothering to watch for anything other than other cars. On the other hand, however, if a cyclist were to choose a way to go, can you imagine a better way than riding into the sunset on your bicycle?

    God speed, Randy. Keep those pedals turning, wherever you are.

  3. HTLC says:

    This is sad news. My father-in-law was one of Randy’s crew in 2004 and we followed his progress in that race like he was one of the family. I’ve never met Randy, but am definitely saddened by the loss of such a great guy.

    Prayers go out to the Van Zee family.

  4. Rachel says:


    Thanks for the tribute to my dad, he was a great father. My husband and I live in the Springs and come across your blog via Out There on occassion. Your write up was handed out by a relative at the funeral via someother website.

    Thanks for all the prayers,

  5. Todd says:

    I am a AZ memeber of the Sioux County bike club and never met Randy but this is very sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. I just wish peole would pay more attention when driving. These accidents do not need to happen.

  6. UltraRob says:

    Rachel, I’m sorry for your loss. My wife and I had noticed in the obituary that you lived here in the Springs.

    Watching your father in the 2004 RAAM video was inspiring. Even though he was in so much pain he kept going and treated his crew well. Although I never got to meet him, I’ve heard good things about him.

  7. carl prieksat says:

    i rode with randy a time or 2 ,nice man. he told me of his struggle with ciggarettes and weight. started running which turned in to marathons, then to bike riding. i don’t think he would blame the girl that hit him, but i agree with the person who made a post a long time ago in 08 that people should take more care as they drive. wish i would have seen this sooner.

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