Remembering Rich Vroom (1957-2023) — Artist, Bicycle Racer, Family Man

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Richard Vroom, known simply as “Rich”, passed away on July 3, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a long time stalwart and force of the bicycle racing community as well as an extraordinary watercolor artist and teacher. He will be dearly missed by his family, friends, art students, bike racing competitors and me because he was one of my best friends ever.

Rich Vroom 1957-2023 — Artist, Bicycle Racer, Family Man. Photo courtesy The Vroom family

Rich grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan and found his love for riding a bicycle at an early age and quickly developed into a top sprinter who excelled in criterium racing. He was a member of the famous Schwinn Wolverine cycling club from the Detroit area that boasted such riders as Tom Schuler, Jeff Pierce and the Meingast brothers from Germany.

Rich Vroom at Masters Nationals in Park City, Utah, 2004. Photo by Dave Iltis

Vroom was a proud Michigan State Spartan where he was roommates with Jeff Pierce, who would go on to a very successful pro racing career and a Tour De France stage win in the mid 80s. Rich also met his wife Jane Brennan, who was a 3 time National Champion on the track, at Michigan State and they eventually raised two wonderful kids together in Utah.

Rich Vroom (center) at the Running of The Bulls Crit in Elko, July 4 2003. Photo by Eric Schramm

After moving to Salt Lake City in 1983, Rich became a fixture in the local racing community and combined an uncanny sense of strategy, tactics and speed to become a fierce finisher at the races. He was a superb bike rider who seemed to be able excel with ease and minimal, but focused training. He also had an easygoing personality and great sense of humor.

My first memory of Rich was at a weekly criterium race at the Salt Lake International Center shortly after he moved to Utah in 1983. On the starting line I noticed this guy who looked like a good racer, but was wearing green Adidas running shoes. I snickered to myself about this silly guy I didn’t know in tennis shoes amongst the best racers in Utah. Rich had forgotten his bike shoes that day and did just fine in his tennis shoes finishing in the top three that day. Soon after that we developed a close friendship that lasted until his passing. 

It is quite likely that Rich Vroom and my wife Laura Howat did more of the weekly Utah criterium races than any other male or female racers during their long and successful racing careers. Starting with the Thursday night races at the Salt Lake International Center in the early 80s and transitioning to the Tuesday night RMR races, they both racked up many, many top finishes before retiring in the late 2010s. Both were very skilled racers and excellent mentors to younger riders throughout their racing careers. Laura’s favorite part of the criteriums was riding back to the neighborhood with Rich after the races.

Bill Harris, a top racer in Utah who won loads of races had this to say about Rich: “At the start of a race I always look around and pick 4 or 5 key guys to keep an eye on. Rich was always one of those guys. I learned so much watching him race. Rich had an uncanny ability to conserve energy during the race, then weave his way to the front and finish with a wicked sprint to take the win. I always looked up to Rich, he was a wonderful person and a great example of a life well-lived.” 

One of Rich’s regular training routines was to practice 200 RPM sprints which helped develop his tremendous leg speed for those fast finishes. He also practiced sprinting with his hands off the bars and arms pointed backwards behind his hips to deemphasize the upper body and focus on a circular pedaling stroke.

Many people knew Rich as a superb painter. He showed amazing talent as a young person and largely taught himself to paint with watercolors. Painting was always a passion of his and in the late 1990s he went pro. Besides selling paintings at galleries and art shows he taught painting classes through the University of Utah and privately at his studio in Sugarhouse. His work can be purchased on Instagram at @richvroom. Rich’s paintings have also been showcased in Cycling West magazine many times in the past.

Rich Vroom was a man of many talents and interests. From life long cyclist, gym rat, little league soccer coach, nordic skiing instructor, golfer, sailor, climber, exceptional athlete, artist, family man and all-around fun person he touched many lives. He will surely be missed.

Group Ride: There will be group ride in honor of Rich on Sunday 8/27/23 at 8:30 starting at Sugarhouse Park in Salt Lake City, Utah. Please meet at the 1500 East entrance to Sugarhouse Park at 8:30am on Sunday morning. We will ride down to the Cotton Bottom and return along Wasatch Blvd. It will be an easy conversational pace. Anyone who wants to ride more can tack on Emigration Canyon at the end.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for a sincere tribute to Rich Vrooms, although I did not know him, he sounds like an amazing man.
    I did know your wife Laura Howat from swimming laps at the Steiner 50m outdoor pool up on Guardsman Way and seeing her on the bike multiple times. In fact, back then, you, Barry, were a frequent swimmer as well as a gifted cyclist and a dedicated triathlete. That was back in the mid 1980s when triathlons were gaining acceptance and an increasing wave of participation. In fact, for reasons I never knew, Laura and I were picked to do a brief promotional TV commercial for the Heber Valley Triathlon. And Barry, at about that same tine, you were quoted in an article in a local cycling magazine talking about riding a century. You said something like, and I am paraphrasing, “…anyone can ride 100 miles, but I ride it hard.”
    That inspired me to do my best to follow your example, thank you.

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