Tour de France stage 16: a Throw Wins it for Sagan

The Tour entered Berne, Switzerland for the first of two stages.

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Covered tram lines in the final straightaway.

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Andrea and I lucked out and were given passes to watch the stage from the technical zone. This is one of my favorite places at the Tour because it’s the fascinating logistics hub and it meant we had the luxury of being able to find the bathroom whenever we wanted to without having to worry about losing our place! In 2014 I wrote a thorough post about the technical zone.

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Germans, Eritreans, Colombians, and Norwegians were just a few of the different nationalities of fans.

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We spent the bulk of the stage watching the race unfold on a TV just ahead of the finish line with Jens Voigt who occasionally chimed in with commentary for NBC.

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This was my first time watching a race in Switzerland and the local fans were exceedingly polite and patient.

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Cameras at the ready, the crowd roared as the peloton bared down the finishing straight.

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It was a messy sprint with virtually no organized teams.

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With 10 meters to go, Alexander Kristoff was unmistakably ahead of Peter Sagan yet the Norwegian misjudged the finish line. Sagan threw his bike and took the win while Kristoff, still pedaling, had to settle for second.

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Warren Barguil.

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BorutBozic.DSC00107

 

Former Swiss national champion, Michael Schär.DSC00114

 

Jasper Stuyven.DSC00126

 

Dylan Groenewegen.DSC00127

 

Matthew Hayman.DSC00128

 

Daniel Teklehaimanot.DSC00129

 

Matteo Bono.DSC00130

 

Serge Pauwels.DSC00145

 

Several teams were staying in hotels near the finish line. With the stage done and dusted, Ramunas Navardauskas, who made a doomed late attack, and team leader Pierre Rolland, soft pedaled to their hotel to get a jump on the rest day.
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Oscar Gatto.DSC00149

 

RafalMajka.DSC00153

 

Laurens Ten Dam.DSC00154

 

Brent Bookwalter.DSC00160

 

Marcel Sieberg.DSC00162

 

Bryan Coquard was dropped in the closing kilometers and will have to wait until Paris to have another crack at a sprint win.DSC00164

 

Lawson Craddock spent the first part of the stage in the early break. After finishing, he grabbed a bottle from the soigneurs and made a U turn for the hotel and rest day.

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Vegard Breen.

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Majka spoke with the press after the podium ceremony.
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Sagan.

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When you wear the yellow jersey, someone will bring you–and only you–a chair when you talk with the media.
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Sagan and Froome.DSC00209

 

It’s one thing to notice how lean the riders are and it’s another to see their veins in such detail. Below: Foome and Tony Martin.
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Julian Alaphillipe was awarded the most combative prize alongside his teammate and breakaway companion Tony Martin. The press was far most interested in Martin, leaving Alaphilippe to wait. Eventually, someone pointed out the chair to him.

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Let the final rest day begin.

Categories: France, Switzerland | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Tour de France stage 11

Julian Alaphilippe and his Etixx Quick Step teammates rode just a few hundred meters from their hotel to the sign on.

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Raymond Poulidor may have stood on every step of the Tour de France podium except the top one, but he is just as popular as 5 time winner Bernard Hinault.

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Cesare Benedetti.DSC00007

 

Cyril Lemoine.
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Damiano Caruso will ride for Italy at the Rio Olympics next month.DSC00010

 

TimoRoosen.DSC00011

 

Shane Archibald, the flying mullet.DSC00013

 

Georg Preidler carried a Go Pro camera all morning.

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Adam Yates in the white jersey.DSC00016

 

Alexis Gougeard.

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Mikel Landa.DSC00025

 

A media scrum around Mark Cavendish, wondering if the windy transition stage would suit him.

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Bernie Eisel.

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Today’s 21 autographs came from:

4 Mikel Landa

34 Oscar Gatto

46 Cyril Gautier

47 Alexis Gougeard

56 Timo Roosen

85 Kristijan Koren

91 Richie Porte

94 Damiano Caruso

105 Bernie Eisel

116 Georg Preidler

132 Shane Archibald

147 Jurgen Van Den Broeck

151 Rui Costa

176 Adrien Petit

177 Romain Sicard

191 Dani Navarro

196 Christophe Laporte

197 Cyril Lemoine

198 Luis Angel Maté

206 Chris Juul-Jensen

209 Adam Yates

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Thanks to Andrea for taking the photos this morning while I was too busy asking for autographs!

Categories: France | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Tour de France stage 10: Suffer Faces

What was the hardest thing you did on Tuesday? I promise it wasn’t as hard as the opening 25 kilometers of the tenth stage. With just a few neutral kilometers in their legs to warm up, the peloton hit the climb to Port d’Envalira. The initial dozen kilometers were fairly harmless, mostly around 3% to 4.5%. For an encore, however, the final ten kilometers range from 6% to 7.8% with just one merciful kilometer at 2.9%. The Port d’Envalira, the highest paved road in Europe that is open year round, also offered bonus King of the Mountains points for the first rider to reach the summit as it is the Souvenir Henri Desgrange, the highest point of this year’s Tour de France. This meant attacks flew from the gun, with Rui Costa breaking free to crest the climb ahead of his colleagues.DSC09876

 

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He left a fractured peloton in his wake, split into small chase groups.

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The second chase group had about 40 riders, including Chris Froome in the maillot jeune.

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Costa with 600 meters to the summit.

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Haimar Zubeldia led the first chase group.

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Vincenzo Nibali.

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Tom Dumoulin.

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Peter Sagan.

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Among chase group two was 2015 stage winner, Ruben Plaza.

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Winner of the 2015 Tour de Romandie and a Giro stage, Ilnur Zakarin.

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Froome’s lieutenant, Geraint Thomas.

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Diego Rosa disrobed ahead of Tejay Van Garderen.

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The first of many suffer faces of the day: Paolo Tiralongo.

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Mixed in with the bunch, Jerome Cousin eyed the climb wearily.

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Serge Pauwels.

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Luke Durbridge later joined the winning break of the day, taking massive turns for his teammate Michael Matthews, before pulling off with around 6k to go. DSC09909

 

Tony Gallopin and Greg Van Avermaet. Both have worn the yellow jersey in their careers.

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Dylan Van Baarle and Ramunas Navardauskas.

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Rohan Dennis.

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Georg Preidler.

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A worn Wilco Kelderman.

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Brent Bookwalter.

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Emanuel Buchmann.

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Tony Martin.

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Lawson Craddock in his Tour debut.

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Patrick Konrad.

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Sprinter Alexander Kristoff no doubt hoped his Katusha team would help to rein in the break at some point to set up a sprint finish for him.

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Peloton veteran Chris Anker Sorensen.

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Antoine Duchesne.

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Luis Angel Maté bares his teeth.

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Matteo Tosatto and Chris Juul-Jensen.

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Reto Hollenstein.

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Paris-Roubaix winner Mathew Hayman did not like what he saw.

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Oliver Naesen opened his mouth in a silent scream alongside Eduardo Sepulveda.

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After the stage, Alex Howes tweeted a photo of a bicycle half buried in cement, saying that’s how he felt on the climb.

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Jacopo Guarnieri and Sep Vanmarcke found themselves in the sprinters’ group.

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Andre Greipel.

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Lars Bak.

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Leigh Howard got the last minute call up to replace a sick teammate.

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Shane Archibald.

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Ramon Sinkledam.

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Mark Cavendish.

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Matti Breschel.

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Markel Irizar, bringing up the rear.

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The only way to follow a brutal climb was with 35k of twisting roads under a heavy cloak of fog.

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A 15 man break eventually replaced Costa at the head of the race which was whittled down to a final selection of 7, including a trio of Orica Bike Exchange. Once Durbridge’s work was done, teammate Daryl Impey led out Matthews. Riding single file, the remaining 6 riders all began looking around to see who would crack first and make a move in the closing meters. In the end, Matthews outsprinted Sagan and Edvald Boassan Hagen to claim his first Tour stage. For Matthews, this win was years in the making. He was slated to ride the Tour in 2014 but a crash in training meant he was scratched at the last moment. Debuting in 2015, he crashed early on, suffering injuries and significant road rash. Though he managed to reach Paris, he never factored in to any of the sprints. The 25 year old Australian now joins the club of cyclists to win a stage in all of the Grand Tours.

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Tour de France stage 5: The Buses

There was a time when a departure lay out such as this morning’s would have sent me into an anxious panic. Ack! The road is shaped like an L and there is a double fence in front of me; how will I ever get any autographs?! Will the peloton even know I’m cheering for them??

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But that was back in my youth (when I was a mere 32). Today I am older and wiser and calmer, so I decided to watch the first few riders sign on to get a sense of the flow and then try my luck wandering over to the buses in case the sign on podium seemed a bit too distant. If all else failed, at least I’d be able to grab a spot on the road and watch the peloton roll out. I headed over to the fenced off buses to see what was going on. By pure chance I saw a friend who works for a team and after a quick chat, one of his colleagues generously gave me passes to enter the bus/VIP area. Wahoo!

Anthony Delaplace and team leader Eduardo Sepulveda.

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Roy Curvers.

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Dylan Van Baarle.

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Jurgen Van Den Broeck.

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Angel Vicioso’s bike prepped for the first stage of the year to venture into the mountains.

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Katusha’s Canyon bikes.

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Julian Alaphilippe and Dan Martin greet the press at the Etixx-Quick Step bus.

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Guess which Cervélo belongs to Norwegian road champion Edvald Boasson Hagen.

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UCI officials inspect the bikes for hidden motors. The governing body plans to execute thousands of inspections during the race this year.


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Sprinter Michael Matthews has yet to factor in any of the sprint stages.

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Keeping the drinks fresh and cold for the Lampre Merida riders.

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Cesare Benedetti digs around in the team car.

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Direct Energie’s BHs lined up and ready to go.

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Tour veteran Markel Irizar.

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Jasper Stuyven is enjoying a successful season with a win at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne this spring, a strong showing in an earlier breakaway, and leading the KOM competition for the first few stages.

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Bauke Mollema.

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Fan and media favorite Adam Hansen.

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In a new design change to the sign on podium this year, the back is open as George Bennett and his Lotto Jumbo teammates prepare to receive their award for the best team on stage 4.

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Populated mostly by corporate sponsors, people in the village often fail to notice riders or are unfamiliar with the riders.

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A quiet moment for a cold drink for Georg Preidler.

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Luka Pibernik talks with Bora Argon staff.

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Julien Vermote.

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Samuel Dumoulin and Ben Gastauer.

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Tom Dumoulin.

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Oscar Gatto.

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Luis Leon Sanchez.

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Mark Renshaw.

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Wout Poels.

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Andriy Grivko.

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Matteo Tosatto eyes the road to the sign on podium.

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Maciej Bodnar.

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Natneal Berhane.

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Chris Froome.

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Romain Bardet trains on these roads.

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Dani Navarro.

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Ramunas Navardauskas.

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Vasil Kiryienka.

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Cav and Bernie.

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One hundred ninety-eight riders paraded through the streets of Limoges on their way to the official start. Rarely do all of the riders make it through the first four stages without a single abandonment.

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Luke Rowe.

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Laurens Ten Dam.

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Bryan Coquard.

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Fabian Cancellara.

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Tour de France stage 4: sign on

I’ll admit I felt particularly weird asking for autographs this morning. The first few cyclists at sign on today were either riders I really don’t know at all and so I wasn’t yet warmed up enough to properly cheer for them or they were riders I see around town all the time where I live so that feels a little awkward to excitedly call out to them (would you cheer for your neighbors on their way to work?). Before long though, the riders who always seem happy to see me started showing up and it just became as natural as anything to switch into my usual spectating mode.

 

Gregory Rast.

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Eduardo Sepulveda.

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The always smiling Roy Curvers.

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Wilco Kelderman.

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Andre Greipel gives an interview while compatriots Marcel Sieberg and Tony Martin sign on.

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Lotto Soudal receive their cows as the best team on stage 3.

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Thibault Pinot.

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Antoine Duchesne.

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I get a kick out of seeing the Dutch and French national champion kits together. They look like a pair of astro pops, although I can’t figure out which one of them is upside down. Dylan Groenewegen of the Netherlands and Arthur Vichot of France.

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The usual sign on traffic jam.

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Georg Preidler practices his track stand.

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Rohan Dennis was named to the Australian cycling team for the Rio Olympics.

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Sebastian Langeveld: professional cyclist and international sock model.

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Matt Hayman, winner of this year’s Paris-Roubaix and the oldest Tour de France debutant this year.

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Warren Barguil.

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Michael Matthews.

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Christian Prudhomme presents Stephen Cummings with a photo.

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Chris Juul Jensen.

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Ramunas Navardauskas.

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Alex Howes.

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Eritrean national champion, Daniel Teklehaimanot.

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It’s not easy being green: Mark Cavendish.

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Pete Stetina.

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King of the Mountains and king of the world: Jasper Stuyven.

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Today’s autographs came from:

51 Wilco Kelderman

53 Dylan Groenewegen

57 Sep Vanmarcke

84 Alex Howes

91 Richie Porte

98 Greg Van Avermaet

101 Mark Cavendish

107 Serge Pauwels

109 Daniel Teklehaimanot

141 Joaquim Rodriguez

147 Jurgen Van den Broeck

151 Rui Costa

157 Louis Meintjes

168 Jurgen Roelandts

173 Antoine Duchesne

176 Adrien Petit

183 Iljo Keisse

205 Daryl Impey

212 Vegard Breen

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Tour de France stage 3: Cavendish draws level with Hinault

It’s been a busy year since I was last at Le Tour and even though much has changed in my life, I haven’t yet outgrown my love for the peloton. For the first time in a couple of years, I will miss more stages than I will be at but I will bring you, dear audience, race updates for every stage I attend.

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Since I missed the first two stages and only caught highlights online, I was curious to see what had changed. Fortunately, none of my friends had changed and it continues to be such a treat to know so many people working at the race year after year. They’re definitely part of the reason why I keep coming back.

 

The gantry, unlike the people, has changed. Instead of the fiberglass panels used in the past, this year 96 small screens combine to make two large screens facing either side of the race course. Mario, one of the technicians I’ve known for a couple of years now, told me it’s more complicated to set it up but even he thinks it’s worth it.

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Meanwhile, there was a race going on. Sort of. After two hard opening days, a 237km stage tomorrow, lumps on Wednesday and the Pyrenees looming, it wasn’t much of a surprise that the peloton took it easy on today’s lengthy transition stage, averaging just 33kph for the first four hours. Plus the breakaway situation was no cause for panic. Armindo Fonseca, the only rider from Brittany on a Brittany based team, attacked and went clear on the only stage that would pass through Brittany. He rode solo for hours until Frenchman Thomas Voeckler decided to join him. The pair were predictably caught and the sprinters’ teams fought to establish their lead out trains. The favorites all came rumbling up the slightly inclined finishing straight and two colors emerged at the front: Mark Cavendish in the sprinter’s green jersey and Andre Greipel’s white kit featuring the German stripes.

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cav greipel finish line

 

Poor Greipel, sneaking a peek over his shoulder. Moments later he would celebrate, thinking he’d outsprinted Cavendish, but the green jersey nabbed his second win in three stages. The win drew him equal with Bernard Hinault, tied with 28 stage wins and sitting in second place behind Eddy Merckx.

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Michael Schär: a slow stage but a fast finish.

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Jasper Stuyven in polka dots.

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Antoine Duchesne.

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Sep Vanmarcke.

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Adam Hansen and Marcel Sieberg.

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Fabian Cancellara and his not so subtle bike.

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Reinhardt Janse van Rensburg celebrating the team’s win.

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Tony Martin.

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Rafal Majka.

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Bernie Eisel looking pleased with the stage result.

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Cavendish and Eisel celebrate.

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Stage win: Mark Cavendish.

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Race leader: Peter Sagan.

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Sprinter’s jersey: Mark Cavendish.

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King of the Mountains: Jasper Stuyven.

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Best Young Rider: Julien Alaphilippe.

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Most aggressive rider: Thomas Voeckler. DSC09513

 

 

 

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Ironman Nice done & dusted

“No me toques!” I shout. My eyes shoot fire at the person ahead who had just bumped into me with unnecessary abruptness.

 

My alarm goes off.

 

Wonderful, I think. I remembered to use the subjunctive when forming the negative imperative in Spanish while dreaming! This bodes well for today.

 

Today, of course, is my first full length Ironman.

 

In the days leading up to the race, everyone wanted to give me advice and the best wisdom came in pairs: rest and eat carbs; have fun and pee; and my favorite, corozón y cojones.

 

I’m excited but calm and happily surprised my stomach is calm enough that I’m actually able to eat my entire breakfast. After a quick shower, I head to the race start.

 

With nearly 3,000 people running around in wetsuits and frantically trying to warm up for the day’s event, I settle for swimming ten strokes out and ten strokes back to shore, just enough to check the Mediterranean’s temperature and expel any air bubbles from my wetsuit.

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Everyone around me is speaking French or Italian, so I’m excited to hear a woman, about my age, speaking English to two French women just in front of me. I introduce myself to the Brit and we both gush about how this is our first Ironman and that we just want to finish without injury. We are separated in the melee of moving towards the start corrals but she coincidentally she chooses the <1:14 swim corral where I already am. I figure it’s realistic that I can do the 3.8km swim in 75 minutes so my coach advised me to go for the 1:14 group and to try to draft off some fast feet.

 

Lucy and I talk as the start gun goes off…and nothing happens. There are several corrals ahead of us so it takes a few minutes for the traffic to move us to the front. I flop into the water (diving has never been my strength) and go. The buoys are smaller than in other races I’ve done and I’ve never swum with so many people before so my sighting is off and I swim at least an extra couple of hundred meters. It doesn’t help that the swim course resembles an Etch-a-Sketch doodle with its series of 90 degree turns and that it crosses itself two thirds of the way through, but at least the sea is calm and my arms are feeling good. I periodically encounter traffic jams and occasionally end up sandwiched between men in what I can only describe as an aquatic mosh pit. I think someone does a belly flop on me at one point which is certainly irritating but also helps keep my mind occupied while I count my strokes to have a rough idea of how much distance I’ve covered. I keep chugging along and after awhile I can hear the music thumping from the shore and I know I’m nearly done! I start to kick my legs in order to get the blood flowing so that I don’t just tumble over when it’s time to switch from horizontal to vertical. People around me are already standing up but the water is still above knee height so I keep swimming until my hands can touch the bottom. The beach in Nice is beautiful but highly inconvenient for a swim exit as it angles up steeply. There is a large mat so we don’t slide backwards into the water as we emerge and there are helpers on either side who help pull the dizzy swimmers up, but I’m smack in the middle of the carpet so I scramble up on all fours like a little kid climbing the stairs.

 

Because the race start is in the center of town, there is a crowd there to cheer me on as I run towards the first transition. We pass under the finish line, which I hope to see again later tonight, and I’m thrilled to see it’s 7:48am. The official start was at 6:30, so I’m confident that I’ve done the swim sub 1:15 given that it took a few minutes for me to actually cross the start mat.

 

I transition as fast as I can, though not as efficiently as I can since I initially grab my run bag instead of my bike bag. Oops! But as I’m not exactly racing for the podium, I laugh it off and run to my bike. I’m pleased to see so many bikes are still waiting for their owners, indicating that my swim really was half decent. The bike leg will be the toughest of the three disciplines for me and, of course, it’s also the longest at 180km.

 

Hitting the course, the first few kilometers are lined with people applauding. I take it all in, knowing that I’m going to be more or less alone for at least the next 8 hours.

 

The first 50km pass by uneventfully: a quick pee break at a port-a-potty, grab snacks and bottles from the feed stations, and concentrate on keeping my cadence up. I hit the 20km climb and am glad that I came to Nice back in March to recon the course. It’s a tremendous physical and mental boost to already have a general sense of the gradient and the rhythm of the climb. So I plod along, singing songs in my head and thinking how much nicer the weather was in March. Today there are menacing clouds that will certainly rain on us. It’s just a question of when and for how long. My inner monologue and singing are occasionally interrupted by passing cyclists who shout “Allez!” to me. This puzzles me for a bit and then I realize it’s probably because I’m going so slowly, they’re not sure I’m going to make it. I actually find this pretty funny as opposed to insulting (I’m nothing if not self-aware) but I know that this is the longest climb of the day and I expect to make up some time once it’s done.

 

Except that it starts to rain literally the moment I finish the climb. While this isn’t a monsoon, it’s enough to make me cold and to make the roads wet enough that descending at speed is now leaning towards dangerous. A couple of times I swoop round a corner, only to come across an ambulance helping a crashed cyclist. Having crashed on this very course in March due to a negligent driver, I’m not in a hurry to return to the hospital for another round of stitches in my face.

 

So what exactly goes through my head during a 180km ride? All kinds of ridiculousness. I enjoy the views when the fog isn’t too thick. I sing my cousin’s name to the tune of the Spiderman song. I think about the people who have impacted my life, both negatively and positively, and reflect on how they’ve contributed to who I am today. I make up inspirational songs to the “Let It Go” tune (“Pedal On” was particularly catchy). I think back to the best training sessions I had, when running felt like flying; when I half believed I was a dolphin; when I climbed like I was the King of the Mountains. I think back to the shittiest sessions, when I broke down in tears at the base of a climb because my teeth throbbed so badly after an insignificant ride and still rode up the climb anyway; when calluses made my feet burn so badly I had to sit down on the trail and doubts overwhelmed me; when the thought of getting in the pool just seemed like such a miserable idea that I’d feel a twinge of disappointment to discover I had not forgotten to bring my swimsuit and had to do the swim after all. I count my cadence. I make sure to drink every 10 minutes and to eat every 15 or 20 minutes. I think about my pace and am pretty sure I’m going to the finish the bike before the time cut off. Above all, I sing Beyoncé.

 

In the last hour or two of my ride, a woman named Rosa and I take turns passing each other. Our race numbers include our names, age groups, and country, so when I see the Spanish flag on hers, I seize the opportunity to prepare for the Spanish exam I have in 48 hours time and strike up a conversation. She is a lovely companion and we continue to leapfrog each other, she passes me on the climbs, I pass her on the descents, and we talk during the flat bits. I’m especially appreciative of her company as the slick roads mean I can’t take my hands off the brakes long enough to eat much so our conversations keep my brain partially distracted from my hunger.

 

Eight hours after leaving Nice, I return and hear an enthusiastic, “Salut, Kathryn!” as I dismount and run my bike into the second transition. It’s my friend Guillaume, who has driven a few hours to see me run the marathon, the final chunk of the Ironman. He runs alongside me on the outside of the fence and when I park my bike, my friend Melissa and her young son, who have spent the weekend with me, are there cheering for me. Changing my shoes and socks, I introduce my friends and tell them how the bike went. They both yell at me to get running so I do. I had to unclip several times during the bike to shake out my feet to stop them from going numb, the coldness is gone and the afternoon sun has come out. Running is my favorite of the three triathlon disciplines and it already feels like a reward after a good swim and a slower-than-I-had-expected bike to let my legs do what they love best. I’ve run three marathons before today and have retired from the distance twice but today I’m genuinely looking forward to a dead flat out-and-back 4 lap run course.

 

I knock out the first half marathon in about two hours and I’m thrilled with my pace. This is faster than I’ve ever run the first 21km of a full marathon! Amazing! By 25km, however, I succumb to my hunger. I eat as much as I can at all of the feed stations but it’s not enough. I started the run hungry and it’s impossible to replenish the calories my body needs at this late stage, so I allow myself a series of walk breaks. It’s frustrating because my legs do feel really good but I can actually hear my stomach growling. I’m on pace to finish well within the 16 hour time limit though and I know it doesn’t matter if I finish in 14 hours or 14:30.

 

I grab my special needs bag at the end of my second lap and it feels like Christmas. Athletes have the option of putting their own food in their special needs bag and I have stocked mine with goodies: an energy waffle, peanut butter M&Ms, and a slice of my favorite chocolate chip banana bread, homemade by my boss. I down the M&Ms and they taste like angel hugs. I even share a few with a friendly American guy who was struggling a bit. The energy waffle is gone in two bites. But the banana bread, wrapped in tinfoil, is going to be a problem. My stomach can’t digest anymore food at the moment and I won’t pass Melissa or Guillaume for another half an hour, too long to carry it around. I come up with what seems like a Nobel worthy idea. Over the years I’ve read articles that say simply swishing water or an energy drink around in your mouth can have a positive benefit while exercising and that actually swallowing the liquid isn’t necessary. Because I hate to waste a precious slice of the delicious banana bread, I open the foil, strategically bite the bread in the chocolatiest part, chew, chew, chew, and then, as politely as possible, I spit it back out into the foil and throw it in the next garbage can. I can’t tell you how proud I was of this idea!

 

Motivation is easy to find in the second half. My cousin texted me earlier that she was going to do two 10km runs over the weekend in my honor, so I imagine she is running with me as I hit the final 20km. Both Guillaume and Melissa cheer like they’re possessed whenever they spot me. I even see my swimming buddy Lucy running and we are so excited to see how well the other is doing. I smile at the spectators and give high fives to anyone who wants one. I eat as much as my stomach will allow at the feed stations. I’m particularly excited about the salty crackers but I don’t actually have enough saliva to chew them up properly so, like the good vegetarian that I am, I take inspiration from the skinny Japanese guy who always wins the 4th of July hot dog eating contest. He dips his buns (not a euphemism) into a glass of water so I dip my crackers into my cup of water and enjoy the salty goodness. A later food stop is less rewarding when a volunteer has clearly been holding half a banana for too long and when I pop it in my mouth, it has the texture of cat vomit. Fortunately, my soggy crackers once again save the day.

 

The kilometers tick by and I pick up the pace as the finish line approaches. It’s a little after sunset and the flood lights illuminate the final 100 meters brilliantly. Stepping onto the red carpet, I open up into a massive sprint, bounding towards the finish with the crowd roaring in approval as I fly by another runner. I cross the finish line, Ironman complete.

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2016 Volta a Catalunya stage 3

With just two stages under their collective belt, the peloton embarked on the queen stage of the 96th edition of the Volta a Catalunya today. With the stage beginning in Girona, it was an especially sentimental stage to the numerous riders who call this city home.

 

Koen Bouwman and Alexy Vermeulen. The American neo pro is a new Girona resident.

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CCC Sprandi.

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Matej Mohoric.

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Lampre Merida.

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When I asked Louis Meintjes how he was feeling about the intimidating stage he admitted to being a bit nervous. The South African rider crashed just ahead of the final climb and had to abandon the race.

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Caja Rural.

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Carlos Babero showing off his colorful shoes.

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Race leader Nacer Bouhanni won the first two stages convincingly. He began publicly complaining of stomach troubles at the conclusion of stage two and, unsurprisingly, the French sprinter abandoned the race as it headed into the mountains.

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Always popular and generous with his time, Joaquim Rodriguez was particularly mobbed this morning as he is one of Catalunya’s most successful cyclists.

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David De La Cruz gave an interview.

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Marc Soler, another Catalan rider, was much sought after.

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The lanky Canadian Ryder Hesjedal traded in his argyle kit for pinstripes during the offseason.

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Long time Girona resident, Dan Martin paused to sign autographs for local school kids. Having placed a disappointing third by mere seconds at last year’s Girona stage, the Irishman found redemption today at the arrival in La Molina. Incredibly, all of the favorites were still together in the final kilometers as the peloton climbed towards the ski station summit. When Nairo Quintana attacked, only Martin had the legs to respond, taking the stage with room to spare ahead of his rivals. Martin now leads the overall general classification.

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Samu Sanchez.

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Eduard Prades received a trophy for being the highest finishing Catalan on stage two.

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Dayer Quintana, Darwin Atapuma, Jarlinson Pantano, and Esteban Chavez represent half of the Colombians still in the race. (Trivia! Name the 4 Colombians at the Volta a Catalunya not pictured here and name the lone Colombian to have abandoned so far.)

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Johannes Fröhlinger and Richie Porte.

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Timmy Dugganmay have retired from the peloton at the end of 2013, but he remains close friends with many riders. The American had been in the area skiing and came to Girona just to see his former colleagues. Below: Alex Howes and Timmy Duggan.

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Matthias Frank.

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Marc Soler near the front of the field as the peloton rolled out.

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2016 Volta a Catalunya stage 2

On a day when events in Brussels make me think that cycling is so trivial, I somehow also can’t help but feel that cycling is that much more essential. With this in mind, I present a photo gallery from Els Àngels, a category 1 climb just outside of Girona. The second stage of the Volta a Catalunya brought the peloton here en route to the finish line in Olot, some 70 kilometers away.

 

The breakaway: Boris Dron (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), Maxime Bouet (Etixx Quick Step), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), and Kamil Gradek (Verva Activejet Pro Cycling).

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The organized peloton.

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David De La Cruz.

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AG2R.

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Johannes Fröhlinger and Tobias Ludvigsson.

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Ben King, riding on his birthday, in his first race of the season after breaking his fibula towards the end of the off season.

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Alex Howes.

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The unmistakable orange of CCC Sprandi, Poland’s most beloved discount shoe store chain.

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Joe Dombrowski.

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Cam Meyer started the day as the best climber but lost the red jersey to Boris Dron after the Belgian’s efforts in the breakaway.

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Racing to catch the tail of the peloton, Tejay Van Garderen suffered a flat and teammate Darwin Atapuma was on hand to swap out a tire.

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Bernie Eisel pulled Omar Fraile back to the main group. The Spaniard is the lantern rouge.

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Atapuma went on to complete the stage with the main field.

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Paris-Nice stage 6 (2016)

A few photos from Côte de Coursegouls, a cat 2 climb 50 kilometers into the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice.

 

Thomas De Gendt lead the break away.

 

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Andrew Talansky would later abandon the stage while Antoine Duschene earned the polka dot jersey after several days of hard riding in the break.

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The peloton approached.

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Simon Yates and teammates pulled for Michael Matthews in the leader’s jersey. The sprinter would lose the jersey today with Geraint Thomas taking it after the final climb up La Madone.

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Geoffrey Soupe.

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Brandle, Bouhanni, and Boonen.

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Five additional categorized climbs awaited the peloton.

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An Etixx Quick Step rider attempted to bridge back to the main field.

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Tyler Farrar and a teammate were far back but not the last riders on the road.

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