The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 19: The dreaded off season

August 7, 2016 § 13 Comments

It’s August. The sun is still beating down. There are still races on the calendar. February is so far away it might as well be in Micronesia. Yet for all that, people are already starting to ponder The Question and its bastard variants, i.e. “What should I be doing for the off season?”

Glad you asked.

First you should take out a calendar for 2016 and see how many races you did. By “races” I don’t mean NPR or Telo or coffee cruises with a sprunt or Strava contests or any ride that features a “sag,” “rest stop,” or a floppy bag filled with goodies.

By “races” I mean events where you pay money, pin on a number, get shouted at by an official in an ill-fitting golf shirt, get pushed around in a pack of doped-up insane people, run the risk of crashing and getting a brain injury, and ultimately either get dropped, get chopped in the sprint, or finish cursing the day you were born and swearing to never do a another one as long as you live or until next week, whichever comes first.

So after toting up all those races you can effectively plan your off season as follows:

  1. 1-5 races: There is no off season.
  2. 6-10 races: There is no off season.
  3. 11-15 races: There is no off season.
  4. 16+ races: You should have taken a break back in April, because there’s still no off season.

“B-b-b-b-b-but!” you complain. “I’m tired! I’m worn out! I’m mentally fateeeeeeged! I gotta rest!”

All of that is true, but it’s unrelated to the three races you did back in March. In other words:

  1. You are tired because you are old.
  2. You are worn out because you are old.
  3. You are fatigued because you are old.
  4. You gotta rest because you are old.

And guess what? Next year you will be what is known as “older.” This will require even more rest. It will not require an off season. Off seasons are for ski resorts, not chubby hobby bike profamateurs.

The single biggest obstacle to rest is what we colloquially refer to as the “weekend,” but is more commonly known as “the opportunity to do 200 miles of riding in 48 hours.” This may sound like a mere warmer-upper if you do events like RAAM or have a nickname like “Metal” or “Mr. 10,000.”

For old people, though, it will not work cramming all your weekly miles into a couple of days, somehow hoping that it will compensate for doing little or nothing the rest of the week, and somehow hoping that ((beer+shitty food) x (Mon + Tue + Wed + Thu + Fri) – Big Century Ride = Fitness.

The only thing that will remove your non-season’s season-ending fatigue is an old trick used by hunter-gatherers who had to scrap for every meal every fuggin’ day. It’s the old “get up early trick.”

Yes, your August doldrums are not the result of too much riding but of sloth, and your off season training plan shouldn’t feature anything special at all except this: Get the fuck up early enough to get in your weekday rides, and go the fuck to sleep (there’s a book on this) early enough so that you can get the fuck up early enough to ride again the next day.

Please email the reasons that you can’t go to bed early or you’re a night person or whatever else to: sloth@slothful.com; don’t email them to me because I know why you can’t go to bed early and get up early: You’re lazy and you’d rather pound the extra carafe of tequila or watch the BIG GAME, you know, the game that’s so big they will never have another one like it ever again until next week.

Go ahead, set your alarm for 5:00 or 4:00 or 3:30 or whatever the magic number is, and go the fuck to sleep so that you get the necessary 6 or 7 hours of beddy-bye time. You’ll run into people like Craig Hummer, Doug Murtha, Jim Bowles, and the MB Morning Crew, and never need another off season again.

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10 Steps to a Revolution

August 6, 2016 § 40 Comments

None of this happened overnight. John Forester got it all started in the 1970s when he laid out the theory behind riding a bike utilizing traffic laws applicable to other vehicles. Communities from Long Beach to Kalamazoo have shared their plans and their experiences with what it takes to change community attitudes towards bikes.

Advocates in LA like Don Ward, Dan Gutierrez, Eric Bruins, and Jim Hannon, and advocates in Michigan like Paul Selden are just a few of the people who have shown the way to cooperating with local government to make roads safer for bikes. The daily drumbeat of advocacy and activism in our local CABO forum relentlessly highlights the solutions to the problems we face.

Most importantly, the people who think the wages of cycling should be death, as enunciated by a local PV realtor recently, and the people who believe that cyclists should be banned and public roads should be privatized, are on the defensive. More to the point, they’re being routed as they stand on an isolated little spit of meanness and greed, heaping hatred on people for pedaling bicycles even as the waves of change gradually eat away at their last sandy redoubt.

The final piece of the puzzle, i.e. acceptance of safe cycling by every community, awaits. It’s not that far off, and the real progenitors for this final change are bike clubs. They are organized, they are community based, they are composed of long-time residents, they are mostly too tired from cycling to scream and yell, and their ass-conditioning means they can outlast any opponent in a city council sitting contest.

Here’s what you and your club have to do to make the revolution complete.

  1. Take a bike education course like Cycling Savvy that teaches you how to ride a bike in traffic.
  2. Get your club leaders to take a class.
  3. Make completion of a cycling in traffic class a condition for leading any club ride or being a board member.
  4. Ultimately make a cycling in traffic class a requirement for membership in your club.
  5. Establish a permanent community liaison in your club whose job it is to attend every city council meeting and/or traffic safety committee meeting that deals with anything bike-related. If your club encompasses multiple jurisdictions, establish multiple liaisons.
  6. Recruit other club members to join your liaisons on an ad hoc basis for various meetings so that there’s always a cycling contingent of 4-5 people to counterbalance the crazies.
  7. Start using cycling in traffic techniques on all your club rides; don’t back down because a few refuseniks prefer the gutter.
  8. Begin using cycling in traffic techniques on non-club group rides by discussing with the chain gang bosses beforehand. Cooperation is generally frowned upon in cycling, I know, but this actually matters, almost as much as who’s going to win the imaginary sprunt.
  9. Sponsor 3-4 cycling in traffic safety classes per year and make them available to the community, which includes law enforcement, local government, and local schools. Think of how much your club members spent on beer in 2016. For a few hundred bucks you could actually save a life or two.
  10. Make cycling traffic techniques at least as high a priority in every club meeting as the annual club bibs/jersey order. Ridiculous? Perhaps, but possible. Maybe you could lead off with, “We’re going to discuss a new jersey design for ride leaders who’ve taken the education course … “

The prophets are in from the wilderness and the unwashed and somewhat-washed cycling herds are ready to receive the message. Go forth and spread the seed, but spread it as traffic, controlling the lane.

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It’s more than just a sprint

August 5, 2016 § 10 Comments

I’ve been riding with Josh for about a year now. We are teammates, but we first met at the Tuttle Creek Road Race out in Nowheresville, CA this February. It was a hard race and neither of us won.

Since that time he’s been an occasional attendee on the Thursday Flog Ride. I won’t bore you with how hard the ride is; I’m sure yours is harder.

One thing is pretty clear, though. Most people do the Flog once, maybe twice, and you never see them again. And another thing. Everyone who’s done it regularly since November has stood on a podium this year.

The ride goes around the PV Golf Course six times. It’s a 6-minute interval, then you descend to the starting point and do another loop. The intervals are hard (redundant) and they’re also strategic because at the top of the loop you sprint. Whatever kind of game you have, this ride improves it.

Last week Josh was making some hard efforts but in all the wrong places. I hate to give advice to anyone other than, “Keep your fuggin’ head up.” My philosophy is that any advice worth knowing can and will be used against me.

However, after one particularly disappointing lap (for Josh), where he had attacked on the first section of the golf course, then gotten caught and dropped, I coached him against my better instincts. “Dude,” I said. “You’re not strong enough to attack there and hold it to the end.”

“But I have to try,” he said.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “but don’t try there.”

“Where do I try then?”

“Suck wheel until the last hundred yards then sprint like a bastard.”

“But that’s wheelsucking.”

“Fight the battle with the weapons you have, not the weapons you wish you had.”

This morning the first two Flog laps were, well, hard. EA Sports, Inc. took the first two sprints in typical dominating fashion. On the third lap as we made the right-hander for the final leg to the finish, I looked back. It was just Josh. “He’ll attack about now,” I thought. “Way too early.”

But he didn’t.

With a hundred yards to go I got ready to launch, but no sooner had I clenched the drops than Josh came rocketing by. He didn’t just win it, he owned it.

As we circled in the parking lot waiting for the re-group, he was smiling. “Good job,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said. “I feel good today.”

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Performance enhancing equipment

August 3, 2016 § 25 Comments

Or “PEE” as I like to call it.

A couple of months ago I ordered the new SRAM electric wireless shifter thingies from my ace mechanic, Boozy P. One day he called. “Yo, Wanky, you still want that stuff?”

“Bring it,” I said. “It’s about time for me to crack the top 10 out at Telo, and what’s a couple grand if it guarantees me a placing or two?”

A week later there was a family car crisis which led to the purchase of a Chevy Volt. It was the most awesome car in the world for seven days, but after one full week of flawlessness it quit working and it’s been in the shop ever since. “Part’s on back order,” Service Dude said.

That was July 18.

So I called Boozy P. “Dude,” I said, “I bought a new broken Chevy Volt and we have some financial issues and I have to choose between the SRAM electrothingies or food.”

He waited, wondering what the problem was. “Yeah?”

“So I’m going to have to pass on that stuff I ordered unless it puts you in a bind, in which case I’ll take it and lose that last 35 pounds.”

“Nah,” he said, “I can return it; actually I got a great deal and several people have been asking about it. No worries.”

Shortly thereafter I got 2nd or 3rd in the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016, which is the best I’ve ever done there in eight years but who’s counting? About that time Boozy P. stopped answering my phone calls and texts which was disturbing because he’s super responsive. Unbeknownst to me he had taken a five-day trip to the Sierras, going up to 12,000 feet with nothing but beer to sustain him.

I had no idea he’d gone Jeremiah Johnson on me. I thought he was mad because I’d crawfished on the PEE or perhaps somehow because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?

I interrupted Manslaughter’s vacation in Hawai’i to see if he could intervene. “Boozy P. isn’t mad,” Manslaughter assured me. “He’s never mad. Take a Xanax.”

Then I called EA Sports, Inc., who was excited to hear from me but not that excited. “Dude, it’s 2:00 AM and you woke up the whole family. What’s up?” I told him the sad story about how I’d crawfished on the PEE and Boozy was not taking my calls or texts because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?

EA Sports, Inc. advised me to get some sleep. “Boozy probably dropped his phone in the toilet. He’ll get back to you once he gets a new one.”

Finally I called Dawg. “Don’t ever call me at 3:00 AM again,” he said. “Even if you’re in jail. Especially if you’re in jail.” He hung up and I didn’t even get a chance to tell him about how I’d crawfished on the PEE and how maybe Boozy wasn’t taking my calls or texts because of the Great Disputed Telo Training Crit Finish Controversy of 2016 in which I got 2nd or 3rd, the best I’ve ever done in eight years but who’s counting?

After I’d given up all hope, Boozy P. returned from the Sierras. “Yo, Wanky,” he said. “I saw you called me 473 times and left a thousand text messages. What’s up?”

I went over to the shop and apologized for crawfishing and for the 2nd or 3rd Place Controversy (my best Telo finish ever, btw). “No worries,” he said. “You still want the SRAM wireless? I was going to take it back today.”

I thought about the Chevy Volt which was still in the shop at Martin Chevrolet and how the part was on back order indefinitely although they’d promised to speak with the subcontractor factory in Vietnam to find out when the part might be manufactured and how Mrs. WM was going to kill me when she found out I’d bought something that I couldn’t even explain what it was or what it did. That’s when I looked at the SRAM electrothingy box.

etap.

“You know,” I said, “my PEE has been grossly exceeding my dedication since I swapped a SunTour derailleur, Sugino cranks, and Dia-Compe brakes for Campy Super Record back in 1984. And I can’t possibly afford it but that box is so sweet so yeah, put that shit on.”

For all you tech heads out there, the first key performance difference between SRAM electrothingy and Dura-Ace mechanical is overwhelming, dominating, extraordinary beyond words: The second you post a picture of the cool boxes on Facegag, it breaks your fuggin’ timeline.

If you’ve always been in the running for awesome Facebag posts but have never been able to crack the podium, SRAM electro is the real deal. You gain, on average, 150 extra likes, 50-ish smiley faces, and envious posts from Ol’ Grizzles that don’t even mention guns or how our great nation was built on easy access to suicide and firearm accidents in the home.

The SRAM electro interfaces incredibly well with FB and is easily uploaded to your timeline, where it simply outperforms any other PEE, even wheelsets that are full carbon with extra carbon and photos of Charon. I’ll admit that it’s a costly Facebag upgrade but it’s worth it for the hour or two that you eclipse all of the stories about Trump until he beats up another squalling infant, calls the mother of a dead soldier a fat cow, or urinates on a TV interviewer.

When I actually got to ride the new electrothingy stuff, it was better than watching the ads in my timeline that said “Batshit Crazy Republicans So Fucking Terrified of Trump That We’re Voting for Hillary.”

Less importantly, I also got to use the electrothingies while actually riding, and got to test the PEE out at Telo last night, which kind of broke the rule of “Never try new stuff out for the first time on race day.” After 50 minutes of an amazingly brutal race, Headdown James attacked for the 25th time into the wind after Dawg had brought the break to within view. Everyone was screaming friendly advice to me.

“Pull through, you bastard!”

“You fucker!”

“You wheelsucking piece of shit!”

“Damn you, Wanky, you asshole, pull through!”

However, in addition to being really tired I am a really bad person, so I hunkered down until Headdown James launched. He is really tiny and accelerates like a gnat but I managed to latch on. He glanced back and saw that it was Sir Deadweight. He knew better than to flick his elbow, and not just because Heavy D., who was up the road in the break, had admonished me the week before.

“What is wrong with you, you nut?” he had asked.

“What do you mean?” I fake answered.

“You chased me down ten times during the race!”

“I did?” I fake said.

“Hell yes, you did. Every time I looked back you were driving the front with ten guys on your wheel!”

“Really?” I fake said. “I thought I was bridging,” I fake excusified.

“You were, with everyone else. Please don’t do that next week. It’s bad racing and bad etiquette. I’m your teammate, dude.”

“I won’t,” I fake promised. Heavy D. didn’t know that I love nothing more than chasing teammates. It’s not out of hostility, it’s because I like them and want to BE with them and if they’re up the road the only way I can be with them is to chase.

However, with my new PEE I had sworn not to chase and I didn’t. Headdown James rode like a demon and got us to the break. I was so tired and happy to see my friends that I cried. Heavy D. had been monitoring the situation and knew that I hadn’t dragged up the field. “Good work, Wanky,” he said. “For once.”

Out of the six-man break I put in an amazing effort and convincingly beat everyone in the chase group for an impressive 6th, which was three or four placings less than the 2nd or 3rd I’d gotten the week before in the Great Controversy when I was using the D/A mechanical.

“How’d you like it?” asked Boozy P. after the race, who had gotten second and scorched me on a bike and components that had, frankly, zero Facegag performance edge.

“Its Facebag game is strong,” I said. “But its on-the-road performance hasn’t translated into a Wanky training crit victory yet.” I watched as Emily pulled on the winner’s tunic, an awesome StageOne production given to the women’s weekly winner at Telo.

“Yeah,” he said. “Maybe you need some new wheels?”

My stomach rumbled as I thought about facing the next couple of weeks eating nothing but water washed down with H20. “You’re right.”

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The existential crisis of bicycle clubs

August 2, 2016 § 33 Comments

I always thought bike clubs were dumb. Why does anyone need an organization to ride a stupid bicycle, drink beer, and pedal around outdoors in your underwear? These things can all be done unaffiliated.

That’s why even though I’ve belonged to many clubs over the years, they’ve been racing clubs that got me a $5 discount on a pair of socks, a couple of free bottles, and the Always Promised But Never Delivered Race Reimbursements At The End Of The Year.

Your club is probably a lot better than the ones I’ve always belonged to, but it’s still dumb. I mean, think how goofy you would look if you went to dinner with your family and everyone was wearing identical clothes. Now multiply it times a hundred, and make it matching underwear worn outside. Really.

Also, you don’t need matching undies to make friends, although I certainly understand that there are situations in which it helps.

el_segundo13

My outlook has changed, though. Over the years I’ve noticed that bike clubs really can have a purpose other than underwear coordination. One of those should be education. As I’ve noted before, the Old Ways Have Changed. Cycling is no longer a lunatic fringe activity where a few newbies join each year and are carefully disciplined by grizzled old-timers like Jack and Phil and Jeff who teach you the rules with sharp words.

The newbies are everywhere. They’re in your club. They are swirling around in traffic, mostly oblivious to how badly they can be hurt. Some of them may have even joined a club–your club–under the illusion that they’ll get some friendly instruction. (Note: Screaming “Hold your line!” followed by a wheel chop isn’t instruction.) Often, they assume that the skills they had at age 9, plus SRAM Rred and a bunch of carbon, are all they need to stay alive.

This is of course not true. The full carbon actually makes you go faster, and we all know what happens when you put lots of speed and money and carbon at the fingertips of not much skill and even fewer brains.

ferrari_totaled

Since we can’t scream riding lessons anymore (I’m too old and tired, and the newbies mostly look like they know how to throw a right hook), what’s left is education.

It’s time for your club to assume the position and start teaching, and to do so formally. Why can riders join a club without mandatory training? Why can they join a club without classroom education? Why are we enticing people to be members of a fun activity that really isn’t any fun when you’re experiencing it through a breathing tube?

Our club held its first ever Cycling Savvy class for our members. It was my third time to take the class and I was absolutely electrified by it.

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Over forty people showed up on a Saturday afternoon to, yes, learn how to ride a bike. Much pride was swallowed and surprise, much was learned. Following the lead of clubs like BCCC and the Long Beach Freddies, Big Orange has not simply made education available to its members, but it’s started down a path where education will be a requirement for membership. “Life over underwear coordination!” or something like that.

In addition, the club has taken the radical step of offering group ride training on its Sunday rides. This means rides with actual leaders who provide actual instruction based on many of the techniques taught in Cycling Savvy. My personal favorite technique is called “Control from the rear.” Pretty awesome, huh?

Whether you’re a race club, a riding club, or a baby seal club, if you’re pedaling a bike you need skills to survive. Implementing club-wide education doesn’t make you any more of a bike dork (or any less, I should add), but it makes cycling just a tiny bit safer. As Fireman pointed out, “Even if 90% of those dorks don’t get it, all you have to save is one life and suddenly it was all worthwhile.”

Cycling Savvy is offering a free course courtesy of the Orange County Wheelmen on August 4th. In typical cycling planning fashion, I got notice yesterday, but if you can make time for it, and if you belong to a club, and if you think making it home from the ride alive is a good thing, take a couple of hours out of your Thursday and invest it in the future. You can even wear your favorite garish underwear to the meeting if you need chamois time.

It’s something every underwear club in America could benefit from.

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Telo Title IX

August 1, 2016 § 17 Comments

The Telo training crit has been around for decades. It’s an informal gathering of riders that, like hundreds of similar events across the country, takes place on Tuesday when cyclists get together to test their legs against riders. Why is Tuesday such a common day for a training crit? Because we rest on Monday!

These informal gatherings come and go; there’s no promoter and no organization–sometimes the rides fade away (as Telo did two years ago), and sometimes they reform. Earlier this year, StageOne Sports came up with a winner’s jersey that was awarded each week to the first-place finisher. Since there aren’t any refs and it’s an unorganized ride, it’s all done on an honor system … which mostly works!

Telo is without question the hardest Tuesday training crit in California; nothing else even comes close and it’s all thanks to the battering 20-mph head/crosswind that springs up every afternoon and blows into your face for half of each and every lap. Where other training rides have big groups (think Eldo or NPR or MAMO) that allow any reasonably fit cyclist to sit in, Telo allows no such luxury. Large fields are halved after a few laps and as the season wears on Telo always ends in a small one, two, or three-man breakaway.

The ride is so bitter and brutal that most participants do it only a handful of times a year, even though it runs every week from the spring to the fall time change. I’ve skipped it for years at a stretch.

The only bad part about the weekly winner’s jersey is that the winner is always a man. Because it’s not a sanctioned race or event there are no categories. You show up, assume the risk, and ride. And because men are lumped with women, no woman has finished first.

That’s when StageOne donated design services and we got together to make a winner’s jersey for the women. Telo is so tough that the women who come out and do it should have the chance of pulling on a victory tunic. Here’s what StageOne came up with. It’s a beaut!

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The jerseys arrive today, Monday, August 1, and the first winning woman will get to wear her gloriously awesomely beautifully comfortably designed tunic after the Tuesday, August 2 ride. If you’re a woman and you’ve avoided Telo for whatever reason, henceforth it won’t be because there isn’t a jersey for you!

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Numbers game

July 31, 2016 § 30 Comments

Numbers matter. In this case, the number of people who were willing to show up in force to advocate for bike safety mattered.

Two days after the Palos Verdes Estates city council voted to plant signs that say “3 Feet–It’s the Law,” we were blown away to see six of these beauties in place along Palos Verdes Drive South, including a giant yellow sign as you enter the feared chute that brings you into the city.

The signs that read “All Cyclists Will Be Killed On Sight” (except for one that they apparently missed) were taken down and donated to the Lunada Bay Boys on Mom’s Couch, where they will be laid cross-hatch to build a fort in mom’s backyard as the “boys” fire pea-shooters at passing cyclists and wave their angry “No Gurls Loud” sign from their treehouse.

You want to know what victory looks like? It looks like this:

You want to know what democracy looks like? It looks like this:

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And do you want to know what good government is called? It’s called Jennifer King, James Vandever, Betty Lin, Jon Rea, James Goodhart, Ronald Buss, Frank Adams, Dave King, Clark Margolf, and Kevin McCarthy.

Of course the cost of these signs has been horrific. Jonathan Tansavadti, John Bacon, as well as a third cyclist killed on the Hill this year were the human sacrifices that it took to finally get some very cheap, basic signage installed that educates cagers about their legal obligation to vulnerable road users. For the families of the three victims, no signage and no progress will diminish their loss. “Sorry your husband/father/son was killed. Here’s a sign” probably doesn’t make it all better now.

And unsurprisingly, there are residents in PVE who have taken to social media to register their outrage that the city has actually put up signs that state the law. Where is the cheering for these steps that educate, that state the law, and that improve the safe use of public roads for everyone, not just the NIMBYs who live there? Hint: Not here.

This small victory does, however, raise the next key points, which are:

  1. These signs are only the beginning.
  2. We’re in for a long, multi-year haul.
  3. This small victory happened because several hundred cyclists took democracy into their own hands.

The PV Peninsula is a cycling destination and has been for decades. The municipalities within its borders have a duty to begin putting together and then implementing a bike safety plan, and they are doing so. But the details of those plans will be fiercely disputed and fought hammer and tong by people like the PVE realtor who said for cyclists who break traffic laws, death is an appropriate “Darwinian” consequence. In order for the small step that PVE has taken to result in BMUFL signage and sharrows, every person who has been involved has to recommit.

That’s a huge ask because the meetings can be long and contentious. Not everyone can devote 10 hours a month to participatory democracy. But the benefit to belonging to a cycling community that is thousands strong is that we don’t need every advocate present every time. We just need to make use of the powerful and dedicated pool that already exists, and make sure that when BMUFL signage, sharrows, and the bike safety plans are being discussed by traffic safety committees and the city council, we are there in force.

None of this would have happened without the leadership of Michael Barraclough, Big Orange, and the people–too numerous to name–who have refused to sit idly by while good people are killed by the laziness and stupidity of a fringe minority of NIMBY residents who want to defy the law. None of it would have happened without responsive and responsible volunteer city politicians and their paid staff who believe that lives really do matter and that public roads really are public.

Time to take a breath, appreciate the progress, and settle in for the long haul. See you soon.

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