Form & Fitness Q & A
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Fitness questions and answers for November 27, 2007
The Cyclingnews form & fitness panel
Since 1986 Steve Hogg (www.cyclefitcentre.com)
has owned and operated Pedal Pushers, a cycle shop specialising in rider
positioning and custom bicycles. In that time he has positioned riders
from all cycling disciplines and of all levels of ability with every concievable
cycling problem.They include World and National champions at one end of
the performance spectrum to amputees and people with disabilities at the
Current riders that Steve has positioned include Davitamon-Lotto's Nick
Gates, Discovery's Hayden Roulston, National Road Series champion, Jessica
Ridder and National and State Time Trial champion, Peter Milostic.
Scott Saifer (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
has a Masters Degree in exercise physiology and sports psychology and
has personally coached over 300 athletes of all levels in his 10 years
of coaching with Wenzel Coaching.
Eddie Monnier (www.velo-fit.com)
is a USA Cycling certified Elite Coach and a Category II racer. He holds
undergraduate degrees in anthropology (with departmental honors) and philosophy
from Emory University and an MBA from The Wharton School of Business.
Eddie is a proponent of training with power. He coaches cyclists (track,
road and mountain bike) of all abilities and with wide ranging goals (with
and without power meters). He uses internet tools to coach riders from
David Fleckenstein, MPT (www.physiopt.com)
is a physical therapist practicing in Boise, ID. His clients have included
World and U.S. champions, Olympic athletes and numerous professional athletes.
He received his B.S. in Biology/Genetics from Penn State and his Master's
degree in Physical Therapy from Emory University. He specializes in manual
medicine treatment and specific retraining of spine and joint stabilization
musculature. He is a former Cat I road racer and Expert mountain biker.
Pamela Hinton has a bachelor's degree in Molecular
Biology and a doctoral degree in Nutritional Sciences, both from the University
of Wisconsin-Madison. She did postdoctoral training at Cornell University
and is now an assistant professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University
of Missouri-Columbia where she studies the effects of iron deficiency
on adaptations to endurance training and the consequences of exercise-associated
changes in menstrual function on bone health.
Pam was an All-American in track while at the UW. She started cycling
competitively in 2003 and is the defending Missouri State Road Champion.
Pam writes a nutrition column for Giana Roberge's Team Speed Queen Newsletter.
Dario Fredrick (www.wholeathlete.com)
is an exercise physiologist and head coach for Whole Athlete™. He is a
former category 1 & semi-pro MTB racer. Dario holds a masters degree in
exercise science and a bachelors in sport psychology.
Carrie Cheadle, MA (www.carriecheadle.com)
is a Sports Psychology consultant who has dedicated her career to helping
athletes of all ages and abilities perform to their potential. Carrie
specialises in working with cyclists, in disciplines ranging from track
racing to mountain biking. She holds a bachelors degree in Psychology
from Sonoma State University as well as a masters degree in Sport Psychology
from John F. Kennedy University.
Dave Palese (www.davepalese.com)
is a USA Cycling licensed coach and masters' class road racer with 16
years' race experience. He coaches racers and riders of all abilities
from his home in southern Maine, USA, where he lives with his wife Sheryl,
daughter Molly, and two cats, Miranda and Mu-Mu.
Kelby Bethards, MD received a Bachelor of
Science in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University (1994) before
obtaining an M.D. from the University of Iowa College of Medicine in 2000.
Has been a racing cyclist 'on and off' for 20 years, and when time allows,
he races Cat 3 and 35+. He is a team physician for two local Ft Collins,
CO, teams, and currently works Family Practice in multiple settings: rural,
urgent care, inpatient and the like.
Fiona Lockhart (www.trainright.com)
is a USA Cycling Expert Coach, and holds certifications from USA Weightlifting
(Sports Performance Coach), the National Strength and Conditioning Association
(Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach), and the National Academy
for Sports Nutrition (Primary Sports Nutritionist). She is the Sports
Science Editor for Carmichael Training Systems, and has been working in
the strength and conditioning and endurance sports fields for over 10
years; she's also a competitive mountain biker.
Kendra Wenzel (www.wenzelcoaching.com)
is a head coach with Wenzel Coaching with 17 years of racing and coaching
experience and is coauthor of the book Bike Racing 101.
Richard Stern (www.cyclecoach.com)
is Head Coach of Richard Stern Training, a Level 3 Coach with the Association
of British Cycling Coaches, a Sports Scientist, and a writer. He has been
professionally coaching cyclists and triathletes since 1998 at all levels
from professional to recreational. He is a leading expert in coaching
with power output and all power meters. Richard has been a competitive
cyclist for 20 years
Andy Bloomer (www.cyclecoach.com)
is an Associate Coach and sport scientist with Richard Stern Training.
He is a member of the Association of British Cycling Coaches (ABCC) and
a member of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES).
In his role as Exercise Physiologist at Staffordshire University Sports
Performance Centre, he has conducted physiological testing and offered
training and coaching advice to athletes from all sports for the past
4 years. Andy has been a competitive cyclist for many years.
Kim Morrow (www.elitefitcoach.com)
has competed as a Professional Cyclist and Triathlete, is a certified
USA Cycling Elite Coach, a 4-time U.S. Masters National Road Race Champion,
and a Fitness Professional.
Her coaching group, eliteFITcoach, is based out of the Southeastern United
States, although they coach athletes across North America. Kim also owns
a resource for cyclists, multisport athletes & endurance coaches around
the globe, specializing in helping cycling and multisport athletes find
Advice presented in Cyclingnews' fitness pages is provided for educational
purposes only and is not intended to be specific advice for individual
athletes. If you follow the educational information found on Cyclingnews,
you do so at your own risk. You should consult with your physician before
beginning any exercise program.
Pelvic asymmetry and knee pain
Bicycling, hip replacement, and crank arm length
Maximum heart rate
Road rash scars
Crank arm length for TT bikes
Pelvic asymmetry and knee pain
I've had knee discomfort for 2 years first in my right now my left knee. I've
had two 3-D dynamic bike fits with both showing the right hip in front or anterior
to the left in the frontal plane. As expected the right knee is also held anterior
or in front of the left knee. The tech's answer was:
1. Place varus wedges on cleat in right shoe.
2. No wedging in left shoe
3. Move cleat forward (foot back) on right shoe
4. Move cleat backward (foot forward) on left shoe
5. Place 2.5 mm washers between pedal spindle and crank arm bilateral to increase
The first fit was in 2005 and I only had pain in right knee (lateral aspect
of patella). The changes he made have finally reduced the problems with the
knee so that I can ride. Now the left knee is the problem with pain along the
lateral and inferior aspect of patella (same as right knee). Increasing stance
width deemed necessary because of tibil varum (bowleg) bilateral. The right
knee now tracks right over the right foot. The left knee however has a "varus
wobble" in that the knee moves lateral to the foot at the top of the stroke
with a subtle inward or medial rotation on the downstroke.
Any ideas on how I can address this issue at the hips? The tech said correcting
asymmetry issues can only be made at the shoe /cleat interface i.e. moving cleat
fore/aft, varus /valgus shims. How would I address this with offset seat? I've
covered all bases as far as core strengthening, flexibility, etc are concerned.
Steve Hogg replies:
Your story isn't uncommon. Regarding what has been done to date.
Re 1. This is common and to be expected. My suspicion is that a largish percentage
of right hip droppers start doing this at an early age to self protect their
right knee from the effects of a varus forefoot. Whether the varus forefoot
is pre existing or develops because of a lateral pelvic tilt I have no way
of knowing. However if we become asymmetrical enough over time, then there
are physical changes to pelvic mechanics that perpetuate the asymmetric way
of functioning and they are hard to break out of.
Re 2. Also common and to be expected. My experience is that there are a lot
of riders out there who have a significant right forefoot varus but this is
absent of noticeably less on the left foot. Sometimes too, when someone functions
as you do and even if they do have a left forefoot varus, it can be counter
productive to wedge the left foot because the dropping and rotating forward
of the right hip drags the left side towards the centre line. Sometimes, wedging
a varus left foot (if you have one) can cause further problems.
Re 3 and 4. I am not a fan of this approach to functional or measurable asymmetries
unless it is the least worst option amongst only bad options. What it forces
you to do is use a different pattern of muscle enlistment for each leg. You're
doing that already so why make it worse? .I am saying this sight unseen and
your guy has seen you, so I don't want to say 100% that he is wrong but in
my view the chances of this being ineffective or potentially injurious are
Re 5. Don't know. If it feels better stick with it. If it feels worse then
Re the wobbly left knee. The left knee moves outward on the up stroke because
at the same time, you are dropping your right hip on the pedal down stroke.
The left knee moves inward on the down stroke because the right side is moving
back towards the centre on its up stroke.
What to do?
I disagree strongly with your tech saying "correcting asymmetry issues can
only be made at the shoe /cleat interface ie moving cleat fore/aft, varus
/valgus shims" Every thing you have said suggests that your issue is one of
lower back and hip function. That is the start of the kinematic chain. Your
feet are at the end of it. Playing with foot, cleat, pedal etc may relieve
stressors (like the varus forefoot) that play a part but will make no difference
to hip / lower back function. Your solution is to sit squarely on the seat.
Here is what I would do.
1. Get a long leg x ray, scan or similar to accurately determine leg length.
External measurements are a guess. You need to deal in facts.
2. I am far from convinced that you have "covered all bases as far as core
strengthening, flexibility, etc are concerned". If this was the case you wouldn't
have the issue you have unless there was a fused or almost fused sacro iliac
joint on the right side, or a partially fused S1 that was free on the left
side and fused on the right side or other similar issues. If you have been
doing a lot of guided stretching, it is very likely that you would become
aware of issues like these if they were present. If you are left cerebella
motor control dominant (left cerebellum controls right side of body) to a
high degree, and this is the root cause issue (and this can be deduced from
an Unterberg test) then the only tool you have to remedy that is your body.
Your brain devotes space to body parts in response to the amount of stimuli
it receives from them. If you need to wake up the right cerebellum / left
side of body, then yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais and similar stuff are the way
to do it. We are all asymmetrical, only the degree varies. At the moment,
your degree of asymmetry is causing you a problem and you need to improve
to the level where it doesn't cause you a problem on bike.
Stretching and core strength training needs to be part of your daily life.
Get hold of Overcome Neck and Back Pain by Kit Laughlin. Not because
you have neck or back pain (though may be you do) but because that books goes
heavily into asymmetries and how to work out and prioritise solutions with
Find a good structural health professional and get them to assess your pelvic
mechanics. If, through this, you find any weird stuff, get back to me.
3. Move your cleats so that they are in the same relationship to foot in
shoe on each side. Not the different relationship to foot in shoe that you
currently have. Make sure that you have plenty of foot over the pedal as it
is an aid to on seat stability. That means the centre of the first MTP needs
to be in front of the pedal axle. There is plenty of stuff in the archives
4. In the meantime you need a mechanical means to minimise or eliminate your
right hip drop. If you hang to the right on the seat, get hold of an American
Classic J post. Fit your seat to that and before locking up the single bolt
tightly, lift the right hand edge of your seat as high as it will go and then
tighten the bolt. This will leave you with the right hand edge of the seat
tilted 5 - 7 degrees higher than the left side. This won't stop you dropping
your right hip but the aim is to make the low point of the hip drop more or
less level with the left hip. You may have to play around with the degree
of tilt but start with the max.
Alternately, if you don't so much hang to the right but sit over to the right
side of the centre line of the seat which is possible but the least likely
scenario, then get back to me for an alternate solution.
5. Make sure your handlebar height and the reach to them is conservative.
Forget looking low and aero for the time being. Your main concern is not to
further challenge your pelvic mechanics by reaching too far down or out to
the bars. Settle for a bar position that feels ridiculously easy and if necessary,
modify this over time as you improve.
6. Tilting the right side of the seat up will make your right leg reach further
and reduce the distance the left leg reaches. You will need to make a judgement,
partly based on what you find about your leg length and partly by feel, as
to whether you need to shim up the right cleat. Get back to me on that necessary.
7. Do one legged pedalling drills, BUT only with the left leg!
8. Start alternating which foot you take out of the pedals at stop signs,
traffic lights and so on.
9. I assume you are right handed. If so, get out of bed 15 mins earlier each
morning and develop the habit of shaving and brushing your teeth with your
left hand. Hold drinking glasses in your left hand. And when you stretch,
for every stretch you do, if there is a noticeably tight side, stretch the
tight side, less tight side and then the tight side again and don't hold any
stretch for more than 20 seconds.
10. When you hit slight rises, put some awareness into that left leg. Silently
think left, left, left, left, on each left side pedal stroke. Don't do the
same on the right side. During idle moments in a bunch, develop the habit
of counting 50 pedal strokes on your left side.
11. Stay away from racing or tough bunch or hilly rides. When you go really
hard you will automatically fall back into the asymmetrical pattern of motion
that you are trying to break out of. You need to avoid that potential for
the time being.
Let me know how you get on.
I've just spent 3 months in a jigsaw cast recovering from a badly fractured
calcanium (heel) sustained whilst on a 3 week mountain bike holiday in Whistler,
BC. I'm male, 31 years old and 59kg. I may have broken my heel throwing myself
down the technical downhill trails in Whistler but I'm also a 24hr and 100km
enduro mountain bike racer.
I spend a lot of training time on the road bike. I have been doing physio on
my left leg for past 2 months (I could remove my cast) and my calf muscle doesn't
look quite so skeletal anymore but it is substantially smaller than my right
calf. My left thigh is now also smaller. I've been on my road bike on a turbo
trainer for the past month to help build it up. My question is, are there any
specific on bike and off bike exercises I can do solely on my left leg to even
it up with the right? I don't want to start riding only to then have imbalance
problems when my stronger right leg compensates too much for the weak left.
Scott Safier replies:
Answering your direct question, you can do exercises for pretty much any
leg muscle one at a time easily if you have access to a decent weight room
and with some effort if you don't. For instance, if you have access to a leg-press
sled, you can do one legged leg press for gluts and quads, and one-legged
straight leg calf-presses for calves. Most hamstring machines work equally
well for one or two legs or can only do one leg.
Then of course bike-specific strength is more important than gym strength,
so one-legged drills with resistance (climbing or crank up the trainer) are
When you do your one-legged work, remember that the real goal is being able
to ride well, not just achieving balance, so rather than doing work exclusively
with the left leg, work with both legs but add sets with the left leg.
Finally, a warning: for endurance riding, muscle size doesn't much matter.
If you look at the guys who win, their muscles are a lot smaller than those
of other guys who couldn't hope to keep up. What you should be after is balanced
strength so you don't end up with compensatory injuries, rather than balanced
Bicycling, hip replacement, and crank arm length
Dear Cyclingnews fitness experts,
I am a 60-year old male who had a hip replacement (BioMet metal-on-metal; the
M-38A model, I think) in February of 2004 (pretty soon I will be 4 yrs post-op).
I am an avid road cyclist and have logged at least 1000 miles in each of the
last three years. I do mostly 15 to 30 mile rides over the rolling countryside
near my town. I ride for fitness and also because I find cycling very enjoyable.
My hip feels great, my orthopaedic surgeon tells me my prosthesis looks fine
in my x-rays, and he says I can ride all I want. I am actually considering the
purchase of a new bicycle. The main reason is to get a bike with a triple crank
to give me lower gears to make pedalling up hills easier. My current bike is
a rather old model with 170 mm crank arms and only a double crank. All of the
current bikes my sizes (56 cm) have slightly longer 172.5 mm crank arms. Do
you think this small increase in crank arm length would have any adverse effect
on my ability to pedal or the wearing on my hip joint (from the increased range
of motion)? Or is the increase so small (about 1/10 of an inch) that I should
not worry about it? The folks in the bicycling magazines say a longer crank
arm provides more leverage so there is actually less force required to turn
the pedals. I would greatly appreciate any insight or advice you could offer.
Thanks very, very much.
Scott Safier replies:
I don't think you need to worry about the longer cranks changing the way
your hip wears, unless your surgeon warned you to stay on short cranks. The
magazines are right that the longer crank means you can apply slightly less
force at the same cadence to make the same power. Some riders will find that
a longer crank makes it impossible for them to pedal smoothly. You can easily
test whether this will be an issue for you by simply test-riding some of the
bikes you are considering buying. Any decent shop will also swap to 170 cranks
for you when you buy the bike if you find that you prefer them.
Dario Fredrick replies:
Good to hear that your hip replacement has been successful to date. Your
questions depend on your current range of motion. Do you have any significant
limits to hip flexion particularly while pedalling? If you think about changing
from 170 to 172.5 mm cranks, to maintain your current leg extension at the
bottom of the pedal stroke, you will need to drop your saddle ~2.5 mm. The
longer crank arm also means that the top of the pedal stroke is higher relative
to where you are sitting because of both the increase in crank length and
slightly lower saddle position. Thus the effective change is +5 mm in pedal
stroke diameter and greater hip flexion. If your hip flexion is not significantly
limited on the bike and you are able to pedal your desired cadence without
challenge, the longer cranks would likely be fine. Specifically regarding
wear on the joint, I would ask your surgeon about the effects of repetitive
hip flexion at the angle you experience in your position on the bike. Regardless
of the crank length you choose, your decision to go with lower gearing for
the hills sounds like a good one.
Maximum heart rate
I have a question regarding Maximum Heart Rate.
I have recently purchased a polar heart rate monitor.
I have been testing my maximum heart rate over the last couple of days and
am puzzled by the results. I have been using the steps in the Lance Armstrong
I am 35 years old male, live in Sydney, I am 190cm tall, weigh 88 kg, am quite
fit and I Ride 3-4 times a week, a combination of road and mtb single-track.
(I am riding solo in Kona 24 soon. Hope to do about 260km) Not that means anything.
During tests over the last couple of days both road riding and running, my
MHR achieved is 160/min. Why? Going on traditional formula 220-age/2 = 193/min
I don't get it. Am I unfit? Are there any external factors that could influence
this (dehydration?). Can I increase my MHR by training more?
I would appreciate any help on the mater
Dario Fredrick replies:
Don't worry; the number does not reflect your fitness. For trained athletes
like you, maximum heart rate (HRmax) is irrelevant. It is difficult to reach,
decreases with age (even if you are very fit), you would not want to train
at your HRmax, and raising it does not directly raise your fitness
or power. In fact, you can improve your fitness/max sustainable power even
as your HRmax decreases over time.
The HRmax formulas (particularly the 220-age) have a wide error range. These
formulas are very general estimations and should not replace more accurate
methods of measuring training intensity, particularly for competitive athletes.
Even if you could accurately and reliably measure your HRmax, Maximal Steady
State (MSS = 30 min performance threshold) and training zones are not fixed
percentages of HRmax. For example, you and I could have the same HRmax, but
we might each time trial at very different HRs. Training zones/intensity should
be based on your MSS rather than HRmax. You can use a 30 min steady-gradient
climb at time trial pace as a field test to measure your MSS HR. Warm up well,
avoid going out too hard and measure your average HR for the effort.
To address your other questions, dehydration can indeed affect your HR response,
and you might actually see higher HRs for the same relative workload if you
are not well-hydrated. Also, stimulants such as caffeine or ephedrine can
raise HR for a given workload. Finally, there is no need or benefit to raising
your HRmax (or MSS HR for that matter). Your training may actually decrease
your HRmax, even though you are improving. What matters is raising your power
at a given HR. Finally, your running HR training zones will be a bit higher
than your cycling zones (you can safely add ~5 bpm as an estimation) as you
recruit a larger percentage of skeletal muscle running for the same relative
level of intensity cycling.
Good luck at the Kona 24!
I'm a 25 year old competitive cyclist. I've done a bike setup at a sports physician,
and the following problem was brought to my attention.
According to manual measurements and observations on the trainer my left leg
is overextending. I was told that my left leg is 0.5cm shorter than the right
(I can't say if it's the top or bottom part of the leg).To compensate for that
my left cleat was moved about 3mm forward. I've done some training with this
setup and I can already feel discomfort in my left knee. Should I leave this
cleat position like this or change it back to my old position (was according
to Steve's suggestions).
My feet have also an inwards angle. (In other words, my normal walking shoes
is worn out excessively in the insides at the front foot and the rear foot).
It was suggested that I use 2 LeWedges under each cleat (thick side of wedge
to be inwards). Should I try to fit another 3mm spacer under the wedges of the
left leg to compensate for the leg length difference?
Thank You I appreciate your help.
Steve Hogg replies:
Small leg discrepancies, like the 5mm you have been told is the difference,
are notoriously hard to measure externally. The only definitive way is by
long leg X ray, MRI or similar. However I accept that you are overextending
on the left leg, whether because of a measurable leg length difference or
an on seat pelvic asymmetry. As you have probably read on this forum, my experience
is that 95% of people drop their right hip while pedalling a bike and 5% drop
the left hip. For many this is inconsequential because the degree of hip drop
is so small that realistically, it doesn't make much difference.
But for many, it does cause problems. Any tendency to the dropping of one
hip can be exaggerated by a seat height that is even a touch too high or a
reach down and out to the bars that is too great because both will tend to
destabilise the rider on the seat.
Okay, that's background info. Replace your left cleat where it was. I am
not a fan of differential cleat position except when presented with exceptional
circumstances. Most of the time it causes problems and your experience to
date would seem to confirm that. Once you have done that, drop your seat a
few mm and see whether the left leg feels as strong as the right. If so, great
and enjoy riding your bike.
If not, then you will need to fit a small shim under the left cleat. I would
try 3mm as a starting point. If you need to use much more than that, you will
need to move the cleat 1mm further back relative to foot in shoe for every
5mm of shim stack that you use. This will work to negate any extra rocking
torque that placing a shim underneath the cleat may cause.
If you are unsure what shim size to use, test any particular stack by riding
up a steepish hill on the seat. You will need a following rider to tell you
whether you are dropping that right hip. If that is the root cause issue and
it is exaggerated when climbing ( which is likely), then get back to me for
Road rash scars
I enjoy reading your column and have learned a great deal from it. My inquiry
is concerning a scar I have just below my knee. I fell while riding a few
months ago and scraped up the skin below my knee. While it was healing,
I kept it covered with antibiotic ointment and a bandage. Now, there is
a big scar there. I've been putting Vitamin E on it 1x/day for several weeks
and not really seeing any change yet. Do you know of other treatment methods
and their pros and cons to reduce the appearance of scars from "road rash"?
Scott Safier replies:
I just checked my knee and my scars are fading but they are still there
too. It's only been about 12 years since the crashes though, so I'm still
So far as I know, other than cosmetic surgery there is no way to get
completely rid of road-rash scars.
Stretching for cyclists
Feb 06 l had a femoral osteotomy and lower limb internal rotation. I also
had about 24mm of femur removed to correct a leg length discrepancy. August
07 I had the hardware removed from my femur. I have now started back training,
and am now seven weeks into my adaptation stage in the weight room. In the
last week I have had a slight twinge in my right knee on the outside where
the ITB attaches (the same side as surgery).
Can you recommend any good stretches specific to cyclist for stretching
the IT band?
If the pain gets worse or there is no improvement l will go back to my
Dario Fredrick replies:
You can find a sample of the Yoga
for the Cyclist Handbook here. The three yoga poses in the handbook
sample specifically address the hamstrings, hip rotators and IT band.
Let me know if you have any questions.
Crank arm length for TT bikes
Hi Steve Hogg,
I wanted to thanks you first for helping me overcome my knee problems and
move up the racing division. I am racing Cat 3 now and I am putting together
a TT bike for myself and I was wondering is there any advantage to having
the TT crank a bit longer than the road bike crank. My TT bike right now
has a 175mm DA crank and my road bike is setup for 172.5 DA crank. I am
5'10" with normal proportions (legs are not exceptionally long and torso
isn't also exceptionally long, kind of proportional). I believe my inseam
is 87cms. Anyway I was wondering whether I should swap the 175mm crank out
or the difference is small enough to ignore. I just don't want to wreck
my knees and end up with patella tendentious again! I am not a exceptionally
fast spinner, my AVG cad for my TTs is usually 85-90!
Steve Hogg replies:
Thanks for your for the thanks. Anyway, I'm happy that you got a result.
Re the crank length - with your inseam length and assuming reasonable
flexibility, increasing crank length by 1.4% shouldn't make a lot of difference
either way. There is always a 'but' and the 'but' is that you won't know
that for sure until you test them out for a reasonable period. You are
unlikely to hurt yourself by changing crank length and I know as many
TT riders who use a longer crank than their usual choice as I do ones
who use the same length for everything.
If in any doubt at all, stick to the length you are used to as you know
there won't be a problem
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