Letters to Cyclingnews – March 23, 2002

Here's your chance to get more involved with Cyclingnews. Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.

Please email your correspondence to letters@cyclingnews.com.

Recent letters

Vasseur comments
Motorcycle/cameraman
Sponsored teams

96 Atlanta Road Team
Insurance and police costs
Raybestos Brakes Advertisement
50km Madison Championship
Vive le difference!
Course Maps
Bicycle Racing In Turkey
Lieswyn diary on Valley of the Sun
Michael Howarth crash
French ministry wants independent doctors for Tour
Baby Boomer
Marty Jemison

Vasseur comments #1

Vasseur's French, Armstrong win's France's biggest race over and over, French don't like Armstrong, Vasseur wants to be loved - where's the surprise? LA's still one of the best ever.

Jon Brooks
Toowoomba, Australia
Saturday, March 16, 2002

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Vasseur comments #2

All those who are going after Vasseur should listen to his actual words as reported here rather than what he states were misquotes and misrepresentations. This is common in this day and age of instant information. Controversies are often started and gain a life of their own before the whole story is reported (i.e. the recent "Sainz-Vandenbroucke Affair"). Cedric has explained his position coherently and his position and comments seem clear.

After reading USPS's response in your interview, there seems a couple of questions outstanding. Vasseur claims he notified USPS about his intentions of talking to the press before the TdF start. USPS seems to have been aware of this although not of the extent of the press interest in the matter, but it does seem a disputed point after reading your interviews. It is obvious that Lance cannot be expected to take the heat for who is or isn't selected for the team, no matter how much "input" he has, it is finally a management decision.

I was interested to hear in Lance's response about Cedric's statement that he was still owed money from the 2000 tour, Lance didn't state that the "special prize" which he puts in above and beyond the team prizes out of his own pocket had been paid. He only mentioned the "official" ("...as far as the actual prize money awarded by the STdF..,") prizes. Vasseur specifically stated it was this "special prize" which he resented not being paid.

Admittedly Lance is under no obligation to pay a prize to the team out of his own pocket, and by all credible accounts, he is always more than generous with his team mates. If, for some undetermined reason, Lance left him out of this prize, which Vasseur states was distributed to the riders before the start in 2001, that is certainly his prerogative, but at the same time this question should be clearly addressed.

I don't have Bruyneel's inside view of the team, but from my perspective, I thought the 2001 team would have been a better team with Vasseur on it. It should be apparent to Johan also that he obviously could have handled this situation better. If, as Cedric claims, he was "blindsided" by his non-selection and it was many months before anyone from the team contacted him about why he was excluded, then that is simply poor management. It was also bad management to take a "favorite son" of the host country, and the city where the event started, out of the race without prior consultation with the rider and a strong attempt to alleviate what was bound to be a great disappointment.

It is a shame that two riders with a lot of class should have come to this. Let's all remember that it's best to get the whole story before we get ourselves in too much of an uproar. In the past news organisations never put out stories without confirmation, nowadays it is up to us to filter the reports judiciously before reacting to unconfirmed news reports. I hope Lance and Cedric can meet in the peloton and put all this behind them.(Read last week's letters)

Steve Farris
USA
Sunday, March 17, 2002

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Vasseur comments #3

Not only Armstrong vs Vasseur, but also Casero Vs Vicario.

Just after Vasseur made critical comments about his former team leader Armstrong, the same thing happened between the former Festina riders Vicario and Casero. Vicario accused Casero in the Spanish newspaper MARCA that he is out of work because of Casero who promised him to find a team for him after desperation of Festina. However, the truth is that Casero did find him a team but since the offered salary was 4M pesetas which was a decrease from 8M pesetas in 2001, Vicario told Casero that he will join the team on condition that Casero pays the balance of 4M out of his pocket money. Of course, Casero did not accept that, and thus Vicario is still unemployed.

Casero told him that he himself had a very hard time in finding his own team and the salary was reduced at his current team Coast, but there is a bad time for everyone and Vicario should accept that. The very unsatisfied Vicario threatened Casero that he shall accuse Casero in the newspaper and he did.

Thinking of the two situations of Casero and Lance, I once again came to think of the very particular nature of this sport. The domestics make self-sacrifices for their leader. They can go on supporting their leader for the sake of fidelity or sometimes for expectation to get something from the leader or the team. Their tie is sometimes fragile and once the equilibrium is broken, there shall naturally be domestics who turn to the mass media for accusing their leader. This kind of controversy shall never end, as long as road races function as it is right now. What Vicario and Vasseur did to the mass media revealed that they are human, but also that they are entirely unprofessional.

Naco (N. Furusawa)
Tokyo, Japan
Monday, March 18, 2002

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Motorcycle/cameraman

Has anyone got any ideas or contact names to help me track down the production companies that use motorcyclists for the shooting of major cycling events?

Kind regards

W. Steve Blower
UK
Friday, March 15, 2002

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Sponsored teams #1

John Caskey from Brisbane was asking how us American clubs are getting sponsorship. I believe that after the title sponsors (which are usually cash sponsors, since most are non-cycling product companies), the majority of sponsors are pro-deals with varying discounts. As for my club (Minute Maid/Dasani/LaGrange in Los Angeles), we have a very large club (about 300 or so members), of which only about 50 or so are serious racers. A product sponsor would typically provide a deep discount deal to the committed racers, and potentially even a few sets of free product for the most elite, but would offer its product at a profitable discount to the full club.

I could see a set up as this being about a wash for the product sponsor money wise, with the advantage of seeing the club's top racers using it. Plus, with a club of our size in a market such as Southern California, a sponsor can get extensive exposure. Usually its a connection that results in the really screaming sponsorship deals....in other words politics.

Stuart Press
Los Angeles, USA
Friday, March 15, 2002

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Sponsored teams #2

John, in regards to your question about sponsors in the US and how do we get them all, and are they giving us free product, I can tell you that at least on my team, we still have to pay for everything. Now,we are getting discounts on products from the main title sponsor, but we are still paying. The gravy train of free products is few and far between, and even getting a tyre or a tube is tough at times. We have also worked out deals with vendors on helmets, tyres, shoes, wheels, and other products, which they sell to our shop at a reduced rate for our team members only. Also, to be on our team, you have to pay a fee as well.

Just thought you'd like to know what some of us are doing. (Read original letter)

Tom Arsenault
Chapel Hill, USA
Friday, March 15, 2002

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Sponsored teams #3

The short answer to John Caskey's questions about the apparent proliferation of sponsored American cycling teams is: It depends.

Cyclingnews.com has done the cycling community a nice favour by printing the rosters and sponsors of just about any club that cares to send a press release their way (or so it seems). The end result causes some confusion, because this truly international web site speaks to a large cycling community with vastly different cycling histories and cultures. So in the interest in providing some clarity, let me back up a step or two before I answer the specifics of Mr. Caskey's question.

In the United States there are many cycling governing bodies, the largest of which is USA Cycling. The road racing division is the United States Cycling Federation (USCF). Licensed members ($45 US) are allowed to participate in USCF permitted events. Typical race entry fees for one day events range from $20 to $35. However if you are not a member of a "Sponsored Club," riders are subject to an additional $5 charge for each race they enter, $5 can add up to a lot of money over the course of the season, so most riders will pay an additional $45-115 in yearly club dues to be part of a "Sponsored Club." These club dues vary greatly depending on what is offered with club membership.

So what does "Sponsorship" in the United States mean? Of course I can only speak from my experiences, but with that disclaimer, here goes:

By far the majority of these clubs get what Caskey refers to as "Australian" sponsorship. I call it the "good-guy deal." A local bike shop will generally be the title or lead sponsor. For that they might offer a 10 per cent discount to club members on merchandise, use of the shop after-hours for team meetings and maybe even give the club $500 to $1000 in cash. This money is not used to fly the team's star sprinter to Tour de Grande Whatever. Instead this money will go directly to help rent out hay bales and portable toilets for the team's yearly criterium (all Sponsored Clubs must organise and host one bicycle race of some per year per USA Cycling rules and regulations). Bicycle shops as title sponsors also provide another HIGHLY valuable element to the Sponsorship magic.

If you were to show up to a race in the United States (even a small event), you will see jerseys with energy bar, helmet, shoe and other equipment logos. Often these "sponsorships" are secured through the sponsoring bicycle shop and the manufacturers traveling representative. A typical deal is that a bicycle helmet that costs $115 retail, might be offered to the "sponsored" club members for $50. Once I was on a team that had an energy bar sponsorship. For that, the team manager was given a set number of bars per season to distribute amongst the team members. (That was a beautiful-wonderful thing that I haven't experienced since. Thank you Clif Bar, you make a delicious and fantastic racing product. I weep every time I have to go to my local bike shop and put down a small fortune for a Stage Race's worth of bars.)

Another sponsorship element are local businesses. Maybe the local Insurance sales person is a fan of the sport and gives a team cash. What do they get for their money donation? Well, maybe if there is a big race in town, they'll get some publicity from having their logo on a jersey, but since only the largest races in the U.S. get major television and newspaper coverage, Mr. Insurance Man is really just being a "good guy." If the club is smart, they'll send these local business supporters email updates and brag about their accomplishments no matter how small. A newsletter, a team picture, a jersey even, are really nice touches too. Value for dollar, it's up to cycling teams to create it, present it, sell it and cross their fingers that someone thinks bicycle racing is worth throwing some money at.

Of course there are also amateur teams, that have enough money to pay for their rider's equipment, travel expenses and entry fees. They, however, are few and far between.

Caskey also wondered then if he was paying for this elaborate sponsorship when he purchases product at his local shop. I suppose technically speaking yes. But then he is also paying for those glossy ads which run many thousands of dollars in cycling publications and many tens of thousands of dollars that go into producing and airing television and radio spots. So, if you want to be sour about the tiny percentage of a manufacturers advertising budget that might go into throwing some product at a local club, then I guess that is your right. But keep in mind, most of these "sponsored" riders have paid manufacturers cost or even above cost (but below retail) for the privilege of wearing that product.

Marc Bertucco
USA
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

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Sponsored teams #4

In response to John Caskey's letter concerning the "glut" of sponsorship in America, let me first assure my Aussie brother that, despite the appearance of sponsors lining up to pass out cash to aspiring American cyclists, this is certainly not the case. Those who are fortunate enough, in America or elsewhere, to obtain sponsorship for doing something they love to do is typically the result of hard work both on the bike and off.

My experience has been that sponsors for non-elite level riders or club riders do not really concern themselves with how the team actually performs in the races. In fact, they probably don't understand or care to understand the difference between Category 1, 2, or 3. They would rather have as many people as possible riding around in cycling clothing emblazoned with their logos, as well as the team generally promoting their business in the local community.

On the other hand, sponsors for pro and elite level racing teams are typically national companies that have more riding on the team's results, since a team that wins is invited to more and more races and therefore more exposure for the company. Of course I'm generalising here, but you get the point. If you are trying to start a local club/team with non-elite riders, then I suggest marketing the team to companies who cater to healthy and active lifestyles like cycling, as well as a few companies that don't necessarily fit the mold of "healthy."

For example, my team (www.teamearthfare.com) is sponsored by a health food supermarket (very relevant), while one American pro squad was sponsored by a fried chicken restaurant chain (not so relevant). Those businesses that you are discounting may just be trying to break into the "healthy lifestyle" market. And do a lot for your sponsors - make them feel special and a part of something exciting. That is a lesson for all of us. It is easier to keep sponsors than to find new ones, so those of us with sponsors should be thankful and tell our sponsors just that as often as possible.

Good luck!

Spencer Lueders
Team Earth Fare
North Carolina, USA
Thursday, March 21, 2002

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96 Atlanta Road Team

Jay Gehrig is certainly entitled to complain about the selection of George Hincapie and Frankie Andreu over Frank McCormack for the 96 Olympic Road Team. However, if you think about it for a while, it starts to sound like petulant whining. For starters, while one could definitely make an argument that Frank was a deserving member of the team, what with his performances in the Olympic Trial races (against Americans, let's not forget)...let's consider Frankie's qualifications; 1) Five time Tour de France Finisher, 2) Massive European experience (racing similar distances and similar opponents as to those in the Olympic RR), and 3) Not a bad sprinter himself (recall 2nd place stage finish to Abdoujaparov in the 1993 Tour)

Furthermore, while Jay's analysis of the route and the race (it's flat and we should have sprinters on the team) might support Jay's viewpoint, other analyses made by more astute observers (like Lance and the USA coach) proved to be far more accurate. The race was won by a Classic racer (Pascal Richard). In second was the closest thing to a "sprinter" in the top six (Max Sciandri), third was another classics guy, Rolf Sorensen. Fourth was Frankie (More on this later). Fifth was Richard Virenque, sixth Melchior Mauri. The best pure "sprinter" at Atlanta was Eric Zabel in twentieth! To assert that McCormack should have been on the team is one thing....to say that he "should have been the supported rider" is absolutely preposterous.

As for the comment "Sure enough the USA did not come close to medalling although Andreu soloed in for 4th after the peloton let him go off the front near the end", that's just an insult to Lance, Frankie and the rest of the US team. Lance was HEAVILY marked and simply didn't have enough to win (maybe 12 tumors in his lungs slowed him up just a bit). Frankie was not "let go" by "the peloton". Maybe that's how it looked to Jay, but I was there and I can read results. Put these two together and one can see how difficult the race was and what a MASSIVE effort Frankie put in to place 4th in that race.

I am not that familiar with Frank McCormack's European experience as of the summer of 1996. Perhaps he had some classic wins that I am not aware of. I'm sure that quality placings in Olympic selection races make for a good argument for selection for the team. However, choosing the best team for the Olympics is all about choosing the riders with the greatest chance for success, not those who scored the most "points" in some arbitrary races.

Scott Goldstein
Friday, March 15, 2002

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Insurance and Police costs

About a week ago, as I was reading the daily cycling news, I saw that one of Australia's most popular road cycling events, the Canberra-Goulburn, had been canceled due to the fact that it was going to cost about $6500 to get off the ground in police fees and public liability insurance. This news did not make me happy, as I had been looking forward to this race for quite some time.

The fees that clubs are having to pay to host an open event are much too high and I think that if they stay as high as they are now, we will slowly lose all of Australia's premier road racing events bar internationals. The prices are getting out of hand and need to be lowered!!!

Mitchell Pickford
Maitland NSW, Australia
Friday, March 15, 2002

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Raybestos Brakes Advertisement

Has anyone else seen an advert for Raybestos Brakes that features a pack of cyclists?

The TV ad shows a pack of cyclists turning left at an intersection and a car having to brake hard to avoid a collision. It is unclear who failed to yield the right of way (there is a parked vehicle that would obstruct a STOP sign from the car if it did exist). But, the driver of the car give a frustrated gesture at the cyclists. This leaves the implication that they cyclists were to blame.

Maybe I'm just being picky, but the ad bothers me as a cyclist and a driver. Is it just me?

Martin Smith
Saturday, March 16, 2002

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50km Madison Championship

"The 50km Madison was one of three main events on the night organised by Melbourne-based Cyclists International, attended by a smaller than usual (perhaps due to competition from Melbourne Storm versus Canberra raiders football next door) but very enthusiastic crowd."

(Read original story)

What a load of cobblers!

The nonexistent crowd was more likely due to the fact that no real promotion occurred.

Why don't CI run their mobile billboard up and down Beach Road on Saturday and Sunday mornings? This would let a lot of casual riders know about it.

I haven't seen any adverts in my local bike shops, or any other shops for that matter. I know my local supermarket puts ads for the Australian Symphony Orchestra in its windows. I bet they would put up a sign for CI events.

I reckon it would be easier to find out about a Masons meeting than a Victorian cycling event.

Leith Brown
Melbourne, Australia
Monday, March 18, 2002

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Vive le difference!

It was fantastic that the Societe du Tour de France save Paris-Nice, virtually at the last minute. But I was disappointed that the famous white jersey was jettisoned in favour of yellow.

With STdF running more races, and possibly set to run more in the future, it will be a great pity if the races lose the small details that create their individuality.

This may seem a petty point, but more and more, it seems that wherever one goes, there is an homogenisation, with the same dominant shops and brands in London, Paris, Brussels and elsewhere. Let's hope that our great races do not go the same way.

Mischa Borris
London, UK
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

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Course Maps

I am not complaining about your coverage, which is far more comprehensive than any other site, and many print media outlets. I would, however, like to make a suggestion, which I feel would be a big addition to that coverage. I would like to see on the "Main Page" section of your race coverage for races like Tirreno-Adriatico, Paris-Nice, and many of the smaller races a small graphic "course map" which at the least gives the start/finish towns and a general idea of the course.

Of course the more detail the better, but I am hoping you will be able to incorporate the race promoter's graphic into your Web site in order not to cause a great increase in your workload while still providing a valuable service to the readers. Thanks for your time.

Steve Farris
Silver City, USA
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

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Bicycle Racing In Turkey

Are there any races in Turkey?

Allen C. Galloway
USA
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

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Lieswyn diary on valley of the Sun #1

You must not have seen the voluminous correspondence all over the Web about Valley of the Sun in which the promoter indeed says he will "......invite the entire event not to come back.....".

As to John Lieswyn you're being a little harsh, I re-read his diary entry after reading your letter. He didn't complain nearly as much as many of those involved, and with probably more reason than most. John is a dedicated professional who in no way could ever be classified among the dozens of "whiners" you see at every race. He was merely trying to depict the experience of the race from his quite frustrated viewpoint.

Believe me he appreciates the chance to suffer like a dog for years, putting all career aspirations on hold to ride a bike for a small domestic team which will never give him anything concrete beyond the chance to race against the nation's and world's best riders while he can still manage to hold off the thousands of younger guys who are competing for his job.

To have to risk his life, health, and his career because of the flawed way an event is permitted and organised is bad enough, then he has to listen to you tell him to be quiet and not express an opinion because he should be grateful to be riding a bike! How can we expect the governing bodies of cycling to prevent such dangerous situations, and events if the riders don't speak out? (Read last week's letters)

Steve Farris
USA
Friday, March 15, 2002

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Lieswyn diary on valley of the Sun #2

Rob - I'm with you 100%. Unfortunately, all the stuff from people like John has compelled the organisers to pull the plug on this event. I've raced in this event a number of times over the years, and although some of the concerns are justified, the VOS is generally well done. It will be missed. (Read John's diary)

Ken Kontowicz
Tucson, USA
Saturday, March 16, 2002

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Michael Howarth crash #1

I agree in every way with Doug St George's letter. Cyclist are truly the second class citizens of the road. Too many have died or been injured.

How often do people hear of the death of a cyclist and not even think of them as a human being with a family and friends, who died simply because they were doing something they loved.

How often have you spoken to motorists, only to discover that when applied to cyclists they do not know the road rules.

The question is though what do we do about it. I respect that Doug has been moved to write to cyclingnews, but we as a group should be taking our message to the non-cycling media, to people who aren't cyclists. The message needs to be put in front of those who do the damage and those who determine community standards and influence the punishment and the prevention, (media,judges,workmates).

As a group and as individuals, we must spread the message of safer cycling and that includes reigning in behaviors of cyclist who act dangerously, making it worse for the rest of us.

So write your letters, but send them to your local paper, to your police and judiciary, to your politicians, to car magazines. Tell your colleagues, but know your facts. Get the message right. (Read original letters)

If you are passionate about cycling and take five minutes to do something, the life you could save may be yours.

Jordan Spencer
Adelaide,Australia
15 March 2002

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Michael Howarth crash #2

It seems that motor vehicles are used as weapons more and more in recent years. Keep in mind that a weapon does not always have to result in an injury, but used in a threatening manner regardless of the outcome.

The use of cars to hurt and/or scare fellow road users is on the increase and the perpetrators are allowed to go free. What happened to the new laws regarding predatory and threatening driving? Has anyone actually been charged since its introduction? The message is that, drivers donít have to be responsible for their actions.

If drivers donít like cyclists, then why do they drive? By having a license and/or being a road user, they/we agree to all the rules that go with road use. If they donít agree they should get off the road!

Julian
Australia
Tuesday, March 19, 2002

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French ministry wants independent doctors for Tour

So the French government wants independent doctors at the French Tour, and UCI president Hein Verbruggen won't allow it. (Or he won't allow it on such short notice, anyway.) I wonder why. Cyclingnews reports:"Verbruggen raised eight practical and procedural issues that such a panel would have to overcome. The points include the problem of resolving a dispute between a rider's own doctor and the panel. 'What would happen if the panel refused to recognise the validity of the Yellow Jersey's doctor prescribing cortisone?' asked Verbruggen."

I wonder what Verbruggen could have been thinking when he cites such a loaded example. Lance Armstrong was "busted" in the closing days of the 1999 Tour (while in yellow, of course) for having trace amounts of corticosteroids in his urine -- traces that were subsequently explained away as the remnants of an ointment he had used for a skin allergy. The UCI cleared him of any wrongdoing since he had a prescription for the cream and since the amount was "minimal," according to the UCI. (After Armstrong denied having such a prescription and then reversed his denial, incidentally.) (Read news story)

Indeed, what *would* happen if such a panel refused the Yellow Jersey's prescription excuse? I imagine the UCI would be pretty damn embarrassed; I imagine the international corporations that pour millions into advertising at the Tour and during Tour broadcasts would be pretty embarrassed and infuriated; and I imagine the billion-dollar pharmaceuticals industry, which develops many of the drugs being used illicitly for enhancing performance (through no fault of their own) and which gave a lucrative sponsorship deal to, say, Verbruggen's totally hypothetical yellow-jersey-wearer, would start howling for somebody's head.

No, surely it's better to create a panel to study the feasibility of the possibility of maybe having some independent doctors some time in the future.

Philip Higgs
New York, USA
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

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Baby Boomer

The news that Sacchi has been arrested because of fertility products to assist his pregnant wife, found in his home, smacks of madness mixed with paranoia. Is there no room for a bit of adult common sense in our sport any more? (Read news story)

Mark Wilkinson
London, UK
Wednesday, March 20, 2002

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Marty Jemison

I was a sponsor guest at the '98 tour de France when I worked with the Postal Service. Marty was always a gentlemen and very kind to all of our corporate guests. Conditions for the whole team were a lot more primitive than they are today, and in spite of that the whole team was working very hard just to earn the respect of the European peleton. Marty's wife, Jill, was also along on the trip and she too, was a genuinely charming person who was patient with all of our guests. I wish them both all the best and I'm sure that whatever Marty tackles in the future will work out well. (Read interview)

Walt Seale
Vienna, USA
Thursday, March 21, 2002

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