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Letters to Cyclingnews - October 25, 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.
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Robbie McEwen defends himself
There are a few things I would like to clarify as quotes in the press are not always reliable or correct. Let's run through them one by one.
"His legs in the Giro this year were indicative of what would likely happen at the World's (having a 1 in 6 chance of beating Cipo)."
We were 2 - 3 when I left the Giro. (This includes the stage to Munster where I didn't "piss and moan" as Lombardi took me to the barriers).
"And his mouth was a clear indicator of his personal make up, as he told others that his aggressiveness and bullying were just a part of sprinting and they should stop complaining, only to then cry to the ref's during the Giro about the tactics of others... He then goes about roughing up anyone he can get close to at the Tour (I wish I had his nerve by the way)"
Who did I rough up at the Tour?
"And complaining about US postal helping Telekom (then telling Lance he would punch him because he had the nerve to respond to Robbie's crying)."
I never once complained about any sort of helping. When you're 10 minutes out the arse on the Aubisque you can't see what's happening anyway. Any talk of helping came directly from the press, not from me. I won't deny that Lance and I had words but "fist in mouth" was never part of that conversation.
"While he clearly had the help of a couple of FDJ (asking for help to sweep his wheel clean all the way up to the last day) and Credit Agricole riders in taking the green."
The teams you mention and the riders, in particular McGee, Cooke and O'Grady weren't riding as helpers for me and certainly didn't "sweep my wheel clean all the way up to the last day". These guys were going for their own stage wins but at the same time didn't come between myself and Zabel at important times such as intermediate sprints or bunch sprints for 11th.
"He then complains that Cipo's hand shake and kind words in the race lead up didn't have the right tone (true or not, at least he made an effort) "
I never complained about Cipo's handshake, I was honored that his handshake acknowledged my win and that I was better on "the day". I have congratulated him a number of times. He also asked me about my departure from the Giro and wished me all the best at home with my wife and newborn son. So where do you get that rubbish? He was probably glad that I was leaving the Giro, I reckon that's normal.
"And then goes about saying that Zabel didn't have the right to be on Cipo's wheel and admittedly caused an on-bike scrum that probably cost them both a realistic chance (not that Robbie has had the legs at virtually any time this year to beat Cipo any way)".
I never said that Zabel didn't have any right to be on Cipo's wheel but I did say that starting from third position with Lombardi and Petacchi pulling the sprint was riding for second place, and that meant that there was one place to be. I don't deny that there was a bit of push and shove but it takes two to tango. It was for the World Title, no time for golf etiquette. The only race where Cipo and I went head to head was in the Giro and in real, fair, head-to-head confrontations we were 1 - 1.
One last thing to clarify. I never used my hands in the battle for Cipo's wheel. Elbows and head yes - hands no.
Robbie McEwen #2
Just a couple of points to note in the criticism that has been leveled at Robbie and his reaction to coming second at the World Titles.
As the Media Manager for the Australian team I was on hand when he answered the media's questions relating to the finish and would like to clear up a couple of things.
The first question asked at the media conference was addressed to Erik Zabel (neither Mario nor Robbie were yet in the room) and it was about the battle between he and Robbie for Mario's wheel. Erik noted that he had gone up to Robbie after the race and said "This is cycling not a boxing match" and expressed his disappointment.
When Robbie entered the media conference and was asked about the incident he said: "It wasn't a boxing match; for that you have to use your hands." I note with some disappointment that in various publications he has been quoted as saying he used his hands when the quote was in fact quite the opposite.
Also Robbie was specifically asked whether battling for Mario's wheel affected his run. He merely responded to the questions he was asked.
He also made a point when asked later of thanking his Australian team mates for their hard work and praising the Italian team and Mario for the gold medal result. But I guess that didn't make good copy!
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion however I believe these opinions should be based on factually correct information and not on fiction.
That's only fair.
Robbie McEwen #3
Why is everyone so down on Robbie McEwen? He's a great sprinter and with that comes aggression and a number of heat of the moment situations that can easily be blown out of proportion by other riders and the media. None of us can really judge what happens in these circumstances if we are not there.
One thing does seem certain though, he does have a particular skill about saying the wrong things to the wrong people (i.e. the media). The only difference between Robbie's comments and those made by others is that he says exactly what he is thinking all the time, he calls a spade a spade. As for his comment about spending too much time in the wind just before the sprint at the World's, I don't recall him saying he would have won the race, so why are people twisting his words? Who knows, maybe the sprint could have been closer, but why speculate over something that didn't eventuate? Lets face it, Robbie is a fantastic competitor who will do anything and everything to win. And he hates loosing. Is there something wrong with this?
He has the same killer instinct that Lance Armstrong is admired for, so why do people continually criticize him for it? Perhaps Robbie shouldn't talk to reporters just after he has raced if his post race statements draw so much negative attention and detract from a true champion cyclist. But if he didn't talk to reporters, many critics would complain that he wasn't talking. He's in the same predicament that Lleyton Hewitt was in, damned if you do, damned if you don't. So what has he got to loose. Personally I admire his honesty and think it adds a new dimension to the sport. So leave Robbie alone to do what he does best.
Robbie McEwen #4
I agree with most that McEwen, while a terrific talent, likes to run his mouth a bit much. That said, I think any sport becomes a little bland without a few 'stars' who are mercurial in nature. Imagine a cycling world where everyone is always nice to their opponents and never tests the rulebook. Personally, I think it would not be as exciting as a couple of rivals who have a little bad blood between them, yet respect each other as these guys must.
Robbie McEwen #5
Robbie's a sprinter. He's aggressive, sprinters are, he's gobby, lots of sprinters are (e.g. a younger Cipo), he moans (see Cipo again).
Sprinting is rough and tough at the top end, have a look at any old videos and watch Messrs Kelly, Abdu', and co., it's just the same. Robbie wins a lot, watch don't listen/read if you don't like it.
Over the years I've known a few and most are OK blokes OFF THE BIKE and when the adrenaline isn't flowing, like just after a finish when press stick mikes under their nose and ask questions. It goes with the territory.
Robbie McEwen #6
I feel as an Aussie I need to defend Robbie McEwen a little. Instead of all the criticism he has been getting, I think we should be congratulating him on his achievements as a world championship medalist. His "fighting" with Eric Zabel for the wheel was not dangerous, it was what he needed to do to put himself in the running....and it worked. Zabel in his earlier years did the same. Sprinting is not for the faint hearted, and of course it gets a bit dodgy in a bunch sprint -- particularly when a rainbow jersey is at the other end. Dangerous riding in a bunch is an altogether different matter and should be treated accordingly but a fight for a wheel is not dangerous riding. Do you think Zabel would have sat back and let Robbie have it should it have been reversed with the pair??? How silly. Perhaps people 'bagging' Robbie's riding do not understand racing at that level and how it works. All in the way you play the game.
Robbie McEwen #7
I respect Robbie McMouth's sprinting ability as well, and congrats on his Tour performances. Still, he does have a mouth on him, and is in fact telling it like it is, though. Outside of the world of sprinting, few of us may realize what is happening up there at the end of crits and so on. It's all or nothing up there and scary.
I have seen first hand the rough and tumble attitudes had by sprinters - World Champions even. The very best track sprinters are not guys you would want to mess with in a bar scrap, that's for sure. Try to raise any guff about their tactics, well then either you will get either the knuckle sandwich or a "hey that's racing" in a tone that relegates your problem with them as highly irrelevant. To top it off, you will likely be on their list for the next race as well to make sure you understand your place. I even agree with the attitude- inasmuch as I have chosen to not be a sprinter due to it's necessity. As a non-aggressive type of example of this dominating sort of mentality- I saw Marty Nothstein riding around without his helmet on a California track between races.
Earlier, I had seen other racers get dinged by officials for that exact thing, but nobody said one word to Marty...
I have seen track coaches, who bred in this aggressive environment, tend to coach and behave in an aggressive way- even against people they would call their friends. They're great guys- outside of the sport- but in that environment, you better come equipped. Lots of people like to imply drug use (steroids, etc) by enormous athletes, but I don't think that's the whole picture. I think that aggressive mentality can become a way of living after a while.
I think that Erik Zabel is even more of a all-time great due to his ability to win sprints apparently without conducting himself in this way. Cipo seems to only involve himself in this sort of thing on occasion, and never to the extent we have seen with some sprinters, though. I think that all sprinters have some sort of killer instinct.
Along with it, they either realize or not that this sort of mouthiness wins races, but doesn't earn you respect. Of course, they would likely posit that respect is won by beating people, not by talking.
I'd like to agree with Mr. Alexander's comments on Cipo. While some people see Cipo's flamboyance as something that diminishes the sport of cycling, I see it as the opposite. Being a resident of the U.S. I get my fill of sporting figures that compete only for the huge paycheck they receive. They are not gracious to their fans and they lack sportsmanship. Cipo is certainly well compensated for what he does, but I also feel he has a true love of the sport of cycling. It shows in his respect for his opponents and his fans. Furthermore, all of his flamboyance is backed up by his undeniable physical prowess.
Cipo has never been involved in a doping scandal and he's extremely good at what he's paid to do: win bike races. Simply put, the man has a lot of fun riding a bike and isn't that what it's all about?
What a fantastic cyclist Eric Zabel is!
He had the talent and savvy to be on Cipollini's wheel in the finale and was pushed off it unfairly by McEwen, but still had the grace and humility to congratulate Cipo on a deserved win!
"Today was a good race for me; I'm happy I could get a medal.
I was behind Mario but Robbie (McEwen) knocked me off his wheel. Anyway Mario was just too fast today to beat."
He is a great champion.
The Worlds Sprint #2
If the roles were reversed and Robbie had the lead out train and Cipo or anyone else had to do what he did then the result would have been Robbie 1st and whoever else 2nd.
When these guys are full gas, nobody can just move up the outside and just
take the worlds. Maybe your suggesting that you just don't worry about it and
settle for "oh well next year" before the race is even finished.
Our guys have a "rep' in Europe of being hard workers and quick finishers, there are no beg pardons. Robbie is doing what he has to, to provide a home for his family and win as much as possible for himself and his team. I don't see anyone else whining.
Horner wasn't slamming Trenti - he was describing something of the nature of a sport in which paychecks come directly from sponsors and in which sponsors benefit from and participation in national affiliations. He may have been wrong about Trenti, but the comments were not malicious, and they have their own logic. He's not the first to say it.
And since when is expressing confidence in your own ability being an ass?
It's no wonder athletes so often say stupid and cliché things that pass as graciousness (not to say that the other riders he mentioned were either stupid or cliché) - when honesty apparently deserves condemnation from the sports etiquette police.
April Wilson made a funny comment in her posting of October 18. She said, "It surprises me that Mario Cipollini, who has worked very hard to regain a clean image and prove his credibility..."
I don't quite know what to make of that. In what manner does she think that Mr. Cipollini has not had a clean image? Perhaps she took affront at his posing in the nude or his playboy image?
Cipollini is a flamboyant, publicity attracting star. He is also fabulously talented as a sprinter and so a boon to his sponsors. Not surprisingly Mr. Cipollini thinks that Marco Pantani who indeed has had a tarnished reputation is also a flamboyant, publicity attracting star.
Let's not pretend that Marco was somehow unique in that he was using dope. At the time he was found with an elevated haematocrit 80% of the peloton had very suspiciously high if not over-the-limit high readings. Pantani has been more than adequately punished for his transgressions at the same time that the majority of offenders got off scot-free.
Marco has come back from a lot worse than his present problems. When he had his leg almost amputated in an accident he applied himself and went from some good steep hill climber supporting Claudio Chiapucci to return as a super star in his own right. If it was because of drugs just remember that much of his competition were also using.
While Marco has had a bit of a problem lately, it seems pretty plain that much of it is psychological. If Mario could help Marco and in so doing give their sponsors the publicity that such a pair could generate, it would be a win, win, win proposition for the team, their sponsors and we the racing fans. More power to them if they can pull it off.
Cipo and Pantani #2
I actually admire Cipo's inclusion of Pantani with a team even if he's only as serious about it as he was about "supporting Bettini" at Lombardia. Why? because that would be the perfect slap in the face to the "Societe du TdF" if he could get such a team together with enough UCI points/status to "auto qualify for the TDF" Hell, it be worth it just to see Jean-Marie's fat squirmy face cringing at such a "coup" at the exclusion of the Francais De Bonjour comedy we've endured for the past few Tours at the expense of Mario's excellence and class.
Cipo and Pantani #3
The notion must make sense somehow in the Italian popular culture star system, because it doesn't seem to make any sense in cycling terms. Of course, a year ago people were occasionally suggesting that Cipollini could possibly be washed up as well.
It is hard to understand why, however, the idea that the presence of Pantani would ( as another writer put it) 'slur' or otherwise cause harm to Cipollini, when association with Virenque has apparently been unable to do the same to Museeuw, et al.
With the new UCI rules, I thought that Mario Cipollini's team got an automatic bid since he is the world champion, same with Aitor Gonzales with whatever team he ends up with. (or am I mistaken?)
We had two riders at the worlds and both of them are born Namibians, however Caucasian. We embarked on a development plan whereby white and black Namibians can benefit through exposure to administration of the sport, umpiring, coaching, fun cycling and competitive riding at various levels within the ambit of the different cycling disciplines. We are at this point in time performing extremely well at Mountain Biking, with one of our riders crossing the MTB finish line at the Olympics in 26th position.
However, various hampering factors are being faced. Resources is but one while huge distances between towns is another one. Our country's GDP is low, imports high at exorbitant prices. We have a population of about 2.1 million, growth rate of 3.1%, GDP per capita amounts to US$190 per annum, Total Area of 824 269 KM² and a life expectancy of 56 years. Pro riders is non existing and scientific research and training alike is only a dream. We are affiliated to the UCI and we want to send two of our junior woman mountain bikers to 'Switzerland's woman cycling training school' as they have the capacity to excel internationally. Once again, the tuition fee cannot be afforded by Namibia and this development dream will once again likely remain a dream.
So, perhaps, just perhaps, the observer of Namibian participation at the Worlds can advise on avenues to be explored to access assistance aiming at developing cycling in Namibia, enhancing participation on International level and to provide access to Switzerland Cycling School for our two junior MTB ladies.
Koos van Staden
I got a nice surprise just before closing time yesterday in my Bairnsdale bicycle store, TDF stage winner, Commonwealth Games champion and World Champion (and that's just for this year) Brad McGee dropped by in his role as manager of a Sun Tour team for some supplies.
Brad needed a chain, some lube, and a wheel repaired to keep his troops going after the grueling stage to Omeo. He was patient enough to answer my questions about his fall in the TDF and his awesome year and he signed a Francaise des Jeux jersey that I had in stock.
I was very impressed by his down to earth, friendly manner, and for a small-town bicycle store owner it was a bit of a thrill to have a man of his talent drop by.
It's at the end of the silly season and we see Bjarne Riis and CSC-Tiscali falling over themselves trying to hire Jan Ullrich (ok, this is an obvious one) and now they're looking at Botero.
Brian Nygaard said in a recent news item on Cyclingnews:
"Botero already has a contract with Kelme," Nygaard continued, "and I'm not sure that they will let him go that easily. It would be brilliant to have him, though. He is a fabulous rider with many qualities and he would fit in perfectly with our plan for the Tour de France if we sign Ullrich."
What the heck happened to their Tyler plans? Has he been relegated to the Giro
solely? Here's a guy who worked his heart out during the Giro, broken shoulder
and more road rash than a grizzly has hair, and suddenly it's all about Jan
and Botero for the Tour??? Sure, Tyler didn't have a great Tour, but I think
this is for fairly obvious reasons! Tyler went to CSC so he could be a team
leader and now it looks like they're relegating him to the back burner and replacing
him with Ullrich who, his talent not withstanding, is a complete whiner.
Tyler is a true champion - gracious in defeat and in victory and he seems to be a truly nice guy. I just hope he doesn't end up being a domestique again and is given his own chance to show what he can do.
I agree, Botero is a super talent and (refreshingly) a modest character. he is obviously talented, but one cant help but wonder the team situation with golden boy Sevilla- who hasn't delivered at all this season. I think Sevilla is the next Ullrich - full of talent and early promise but not consistent. Botero on the other hand although having a couple of bad attempts at Mt Ventoux, is the real deal.
Had to share this conversation with my four year old son as I put him to bed last night.
"Daddy. Is Batman a real person?"
Does anyone know what the red strip is near the collar on Shimano seat posts
on the USPS bikes? What's it there for?
Most pros have shied away from taking part in studies, as pros are paid by the cycling industry etc... but you don't need a study! [Original letter]
Given the circumstances, Cyclists need to take precautions that non-cyclists don't. Given the equipment, it's like saying ocean swimmers are more likely to get attacked by sharks than pool swimmers, or that bullets are far more dangerous when fired from a gun than they are when thrown at you. The potential problems are obvious and suffer by silly comparison.
It all comes down to noticing and correcting the problem as soon as you can. If you are going numb, change saddles or saddle angle until it stops! There are several saddles on the market that address this directly (Koobi, Trico sports, etc) and they are readily available. Note too that there isn't a gel or cushion available that is softer than your soft tissue and blood vessels. You are better off not having saddle material forced against it which is why I suggest Koobi, Trico, or the Trans Am version of Selle Italia's saddles. Also note that if you are not fitted properly to your bike, you may feel the need to have your saddle nose tipped to far up because it helps you from sliding forward (in which case your reach to the bars is too far!).
One way or another, don't wait for a study or an article to tell you that there is a problem when you are uncomfortable, especially in such a sensitive area. And don't blame your equipment for long term problems.
Listen to your body and, if there is a numbness issue, change something! Your equipment doesn't force you to use it!
Get with a good shop that will let you bring your bike in and try a few saddles and angles (if your shop doesn't have a trainer to clamp into set up and ready to go, and won't let you try things out or help you to be fit properly it is not a good shop!)
With all of the equipment available today, there is no reason to have long term medical problems unless you ignore small problems for so long that they become big ones...
Numbed by the data #2
The story of saddle-related impotence seems like it will never die. Years ago a doctor was interviewed in "Bicycling" about his statements that cycling was dangerous for the male genitalia, and there was lots of general press on this, but the doctor subsequently recanted. There was no controlled study of this, although one of the "Bicycling" editors, who was riding an amazing amount each year, had a serious problem and switched to a recumbent. With so many well-designed and comfortable saddles on the market, this should not be a problem. Professional cyclists are in such good shape that their fitness should make up for any arterial stress, I would think. Policeman driving around in cars tend to have rather low fitness levels, from the ones I have seen here in DC, but perhaps eating all those donuts puts lead in their pencils.
Leslie Thomas Reissner
Numbed by the data #3
With regards to Dan Smith's question on cycling and effects on the male genitalia, I can answer with some sense of perspective.
Having recently resumed riding after a short 12 year break from the sport,
I can say with considerable authority that the saddles offered today are light
years beyond what I used to sit on for 20+ hours per week. I have experienced
virtually no soreness under my sit bones, and absolutely none in the pubic area
since returning to my bike (with a new saddle!) this past August. Do some people
still have problems? Most certainly. Almost all can be alleviated by a change
in the positioning of the saddle, and by spending some extra money on what is
(at least in my perspective) the heavily used user interface on the bike.
A friend called to ride Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, leaving from San Francisco. Great I thought. I'll drive up and finally measure Fillmore St. hill. I'd heard how steep it was for SF Grand Prix. Actually, I know, since I was on the moto team for the race. There was no stopping on that hill.
Hill incline is one of the great lies (mine's steeper than yours). I use a 6 ft long piece of aluminum channel and a special tool used by view camera photographers that measures angle directly. My tool is fluid filled with a mirror behind the needle for precise reading (not made anymore unfortunately). Gradations to half a degree (that is, <1/4 degree accuracy).
It's expensive and very accurate. I measured both blocks of Fillmore about every 30 ft. The lower block hit 14 deg at one point, but just barely. The upper block to Broadway never got above 13.5 deg. This is well short of the universally quoted 18 deg (or more). Don't get me wrong. This is one steep hill; you put something down and it slides down the hill... but it's not 18 deg.
Now I wonder if these other famous climbs aren't 23 deg (or whatever). You can't tell on TV and the angle is all we have to imagine what it's like, to feel their pain. I've seen people measuring with rulers and arcsin functions with great debate, but there's a lot of error involved. I don't see more than 1/8 deg error with the instrument I have. Has anyone ever personally measured Alpe de Huez or Angliru or is it all mythology? Would Paul and Phil (and Bob) steer us wrong?
Cyclingnews recently reported that Tom Boonen may leave US Postal to ride for Patrick Lefevere's new Quick Step team if Boonen "buys out" his contract with US Postal. In an October 20th news report, Cyclingnews quoted Lefevere as saying that such an arrangement "is a possibility, according to European customs." In the same report, Cyclingnews indicated that US Postal's Johan Bruyneel is not terribly concerned because "[Boonen's] extraction from that contract would cost the interested parties no small sum."
As a cycling enthusiast and lawyer, I would be interested to know the terms under which a rider like Boonen buys out his existing contract.
Are buy-out provisions routinely incorporated into professional cyclist contracts, or is this something that is negotiated after the fact between the rider and the team according to "European customs"? If the latter, does anyone know the customary fee (e.g., one year salary)? Any idea what US Postal is asking, or what was paid to Kelme when Heras left for US Postal?
I have to agree with Janelle that the women still have laughably short distances to race, as often do juniors. I have seen some races like 10 miles, crits that are 20 minutes. What sense does that make? I know that often there are scheduling considerations, and that people look at the number of racers, etc. and make these kinds of decisions. Still, what sort of field could one expect for that sort of race?
Friday, October 18, 2002
Its true, Colin Sturgess was very young when he won the worlds pursuit. And so was Tony Doyle when he won it in 1980. I reckon he would have been 20 or 21 then.
Dunno about the road - I thinks its close between Armstrong and Merckx. By my reckoning 'Big Ted was only just 22 when he first won the Pro Worlds, but only 19 when he won the Amateur version. Hells teeth, that man was a genius!
I'm with Huw on this - starting waxing earlier this year and it lasts for ages. Even when it grows back its thinner and can hardly be seen.
I'm converted. I do my own and let the missus do the bits I can't reach, as well as the bits she wants to do!! I'll leave that to your imagination, but I reckon this way, in the privacy of your own home, beats a 19 year old beaut in a salon any day!! I couldn't live with the embarrassment...
How's this for an experience. A few weeks back after a group ride I shaved down, the first time for a few years. Being a serious bike rider I just had to. I needed the respect, you know what I mean. Anyway, to cut a long story short I decided to do it with this product bought from the local supermarket. Wipe it on and wash it off type of thing. Easy I thought. Firstly I decided to firstly wipe my thighs down with the first thing that came to hand - the kitchen dishwashing cloth. What I didn't know at the time was that my wife had let it soaking in White King which is a liquid bleach. Keen to do the job well I left the hair removing product on longer than I should and washed it off in the shower. There I was, glistening and hairless. I really looked the part. However, within an hour all the hair follicles became inflamed (some infected) and by the next day I was in serious pain. The skin on my upper thigh (inside) burned in parts but I persisted and redid the process the next week (without the bleach this time). After three weeks I've given up. My legs are cold during the day, they itch, and generally I'd have to say it's not worth it. It's too much like a chore so I'm going back to the hairy look.
Here are a few tips for shaving I discovered that you all may find helpful.
For starters, I always take a hot bath prior to shaving, it opens the pores, as others have stated, and just helps me relax before taking the metal to the skin. Stay in the tub for at least 15 minutes, but more is better. After trying virtually every shaving lotion/cream/gel on the market, I can say that the best one out there is called: Anthony Logistics for Men shaving cream. It costs about $20, but you only need about the size of a quarter for each leg. It tingles on the legs and gets a really great lather going after you begin to rub it in for 15 seconds or so. The hair just comes right off.
Always shave against the grain. You can get it at Saks Fifth Avenue or any other upscale department store. It's really worth the money and will last you a while. As far as which razor to use, I prefer the Venus from Gillette.
Sure, it's for chicks, but we're already shaving our legs. Use the best one out there. After shaving, apply a cream lotion. I use Kiehl's after shave lotion. That too costs about $20, but since my girlfriend works for the cosmetics company that owns Kiehl's, I get everything for free, perks of the relationship. I usually shave twice a week. However, I am going to try waxing this year for fun. Maybe fun is the wrong word. Happy shaving.
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