Our good friend Clair passed away on Sunday December 30, 2007 at 5:17 pm as the result of a sudden and severe brain hemmorage. He had spent the day riding with friends and did not suffer.
I am honored to tell you a little bit about my friend, Franklin Clair Jensen. Many of you know Clair through a variety of different experiences in life. I met Clair through his cycling interests, but over the years came to know him in a much more personal way. Clair and I developed a deep and remarkable friendship.
We first met about 10 years ago, when our local cycling club was being formed. As a founding member of our local cycling club he was at the very heart of our local cycling community from the beginning. This group of cyclists grew over the years, thanks in large part to Clair’s encouragement and mentoring of new riders. There are very few southern Utah cyclists who did not benefit from his wisdom, his experience and his generosity. Clair would be the first one to offer help to a fellow rider in need. Whether it was repairing a flat tire, sharing his food or water, or pulling you home into a headwind you could always count on Clair. He was affectionately known as the “Buzzard” among his friends. His bald head and weathered features lent a slight resemblance to the species, which I think he enjoyed. Clair was very fond of buzzards.
I rode with Clair on his very first 200 mile event in Davis California in May of 1999. I think it was there that he first realized his true calling as a long distance cyclist. From that point on he loved doing the “big rides” and he entered as many as he could. He was always trying to convince his friends to join him on these rides and had much success in doing so. I think we all wish now that we had gone with him just a little more often on these rides. In the California Triple Crown Series of events he had accumulated over thirty 200 mile events or double century rides. If you add in other long distance events and races, he had done more than 50 rides of over 200 miles. At least 6 of these events were greater than 300 miles. All of these were either 1 day or continuous events!
Clair and I spent many long hours in the saddle together in far flung locations. We rode together in events in almost every western state and in every kind of weather. I have been with him through thick and thin and literally through fire and flood. We rode in Death Valley when our tires were melting from the heat, and through vicious storms in Arizona where we fought off hypothermia. In all of those situations I had never seen him down, never discouraged. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Even when pressed to our physical limits and beyond, he was a source of inspiration. You could draw strength from his fortitude in almost any situation. With Clair at your side you could overcome any hardship.
Through his cycling friends and adventures Clair caught wind of a new challenge, a ride like no other. It was a ride called Paris-Brest-Paris, the oldest cycling event to be found anywhere. It is held only once every 4 years and in 2007 was the next opportunity. It’s a simple affair really, you just start in Paris, ride 375 miles to the coast and then turn around and ride back again. Only 5000 cyclists from around the world are able to qualify to enter. There is a time limit for the ride so there is little time for sleep and you need to take care of yourself during the entire event. You are not allowed to have a support crew. Clair loved the idea of this challenge, so starting in 2005 we began planning and preparing for it. All through 2006 and 2007 his focus was on this event and finally in August of 2007 we made it. I believe that it was the highlight of his cycling career and he cherished the memories of that trip. Unfortunately, illness during the event prevented him from completing the ride that year, but he was already making plans to return in 2011. Paris-Brest-Paris was the only ride ever that Clair did not finish.
Clair made friends wherever he went. Right now in California, Arizona, Colorado and other locations around the west his cycling friends are grieving. They knew Clair as we do, for his uniqueness and his character, for his hand, ready to help, and his broad smile. It is hard to imagine that a single individual could have such a profound impact on so many people, and could have affected so many lives for the good. With these many friends however, Clair had no single best friend. He made us each feel that we were his best friend, that we each had a special place in his heart as he did in ours.
I will miss my dear friend Clair, but I believe he will still be with me on the “big rides”, pulling me along, lifting my spirits when I am feeling low and offering his courage when it is needed most. Thank you Clair for being my friend