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Live coverage

USA Pro Challenge 2015: Stage 1


Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the USA Pro Challenge.

We're back live on Cyclingnews for the 2015 USA Pro Challenge. The opening stage is about to get underway in Steamboat Springs. They'll face 156km and two cat 4 climbs today, but it will be the altitude that will be the main factor for the riders.

We had guest commentator Mike Creed, director for SmartStop provide some insights into the stages in Colorado. You can read today's preview here.

The riders have just gotten underway for 4.6km of neutral riding in Steamboat Springs before they head out on course.

There are big crowds in Steamboat Springs cheering the riders on. Fans are two deep on the opening straight which is also the finish. They're enjoying a pleasant Colorado day, mild temperatures, and some clouds but no rain expected.

The race set off without defending champion and Colorado native Tejay van Garderen. The BMC rider chose to race the Vuelta a España instead after he had to abandon the Tour de France because of illness.

And they've started the neutral laps in Steamboat Springs for the 2015 @USAProChallenge.

@nealhenderson Mon, 17th Aug 2015 17:43:11

One team that's looking to prove itself is the Cycling Academy Team from Israel. They are that country's first pro team. Find out more about their ambitions in our video interview here.

UnitedHealthcare and Optum are patrolling the front as the peloton heads to kilometer 0. Expect plenty of attacks as riders seek to be the first in the mountains classification today.

And they're off! The race started without Keegan Swirbul (Axeon), today.

The USA Pro Challenge is lacking a bit in firepower this year - there are just four WorldTour teams, BMC, Trek, Cannondale-Garmin and Tinkoff-Saxo, and just 122 riders. It should make for some aggressive racing as teams feel they have a real chance to win - the attacks are flying now with 10 riders up the road with a slight advantage.

153km remaining from 156km

The gap is already going up, now 15 seconds to the 10, with multiple riders trying to bridge. This is bad news for the breakaway, it is not 'the more the merrier' when it comes to escapes. Too many cooks spoil the pot, so they say.

The group of 10 has a gap of 25 seconds and it's holding steady as the two chasers fell back to the bunch.

Riders in the lead are: Manuel Senni (BMC Racing Team), Eduard Beltran Suarez (Tinkoff-Saxo), Calvin Watson (Trek), Antonio Molina (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Daniel Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare), Martin Kohler (Drapac), Andzs Flaksis (Hincapie), David Williams (Jamis - Hagens Berman), Steve Fisher (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis), Brodie Talbot (Team Budget Forklifts)

A group of cattle are meandering on course and one crosses in front of the lead vehicles. Watch out for that cow!

The breakaway has been caught and attacks will go anew. The cattle's presence also means they're rumbling over a series of cattle guards, which are metal grates sunk into the tarmac. The first 30km ar riddled with them.

Support for @taylorphinney near KOM #prochallenge

@butterflywriter Mon, 17th Aug 2015 18:03:19

144km remaining from 156km

Another attack has formed at the front with 8 riders - some more are heading out the back. While the altitude is not as extreme as it will get later this week, 7000ft/2133m is no joke.

The breakaway is gathering riders as they attack a series of rolling hills. The first KOM isn't until kilometer 35 but it's up and down at the moment.

Cannondale-Garmin is in the race without last year's runner-up, Tom Danielson. He tested positive for synthetic testosterone and is under provisional suspension.

Team director Charly Wegelius spoke to Cyclingnews' Pat Malach this morning about the team's goals:

"I think the general picture of the race is quite unclear. And I think an unclear situation like that gives the possibility for unusual things to happen. There are some very good riders here. Some of them have raced a lot, and some of them are perhaps not so well adapted to altitude. Obviously some riders who aren’t on the radar could go extremely well.

"It’s a bit unclear who’s going to control the race if anybody. I think it’s nice for the race because it’s really quite wide open, to be honest."

136km remaining from 156km

The breakaway is again being caught. This wide-open race everyone has been talking about is all back together - more attacks are sure to fly.

Rohan Dennis (BMC) won the opening time trial and maillot jaune in the Tour de France this year, but wasn't sure how he would fare in the race. He is surely one of the strongest riders on paper. Today he's expecting a sprint, but his form will get a big test tomorrow.

"I’m expecting a sprint finish, and for me to be there," Dennis told Cyclingnews. "The GC won’t be decided today. It’s more so tomorrow that that battle starts. But it can be lost today if you’re not prepared. We go from big road to small road, and a lot of guys aren’t used to that so much here. It’s a different feeling in the bunch, and obviously it can be strung out. It’s quite close to the finish, so if you lose time in that final 10km or especially that last 5km your race can be close to over today."

The previous breakaway contained: Michael Schär (BMC), Bruno Pires (Tinkoff-Saxo), Janier Alexis Acevedo Colle (Cannondale-Garmin), Daniel Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare), William Clarke (Drapac), Javier Megias (Team Novo Nordisk), Emerson Oronte (Team SmartStop), Carson Miller (Jamis - Hagens Berman), Taylor Shelden (Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis), James Oram (Axeon), and Brendan Canty (Team Budget Forklifts).

Despite being well represented, the move didn't stick. There are now seven riders off the front with 55 seconds.

Five of the riders in the lead are: Guillaume Boivin (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Emerson Oronte (Team SmartStop), Carson Miller (Jamis - Hagens Berman), James Oram (Axeon Cycling Team), and Michael Torckler (Team Budget Forklifts). Two riders bridged across to the move.

127km remaining from 156km

The two riders who bridged were Jordan Kerby (Drapac) and Jonny Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), completing our seven-rider move that has a minute.

We spoke too soon earlier about no rain being expected. It's sprinkling a bit on the riders now as they speed toward the first KOM.

Team SmartStop's director Mike Creed spoke to Cyclingnews this morning about today's stage, which he expects to end in a reduced bunch sprint.

"BMC is really the only team that can control it for the GC, so hopefully they do that. If BMC controls every part of the race, I see 70 to 60 guys coming to the line.

"Hopefully we’ve got Jure [Kocjan and [Travis] McCabe in there, so we’ve got options. There are some fast dudes in there, so it’s going to be hard, but we’ll give it go."

Kocjan had a great ride in the Tour of Utah, winning a stage and wearing the leader's jersey, so he's clearly on form and acclimated to the altitude.

Everyone in Colorado has to be pleased to see the return of Taylor Phinney to BMC's roster for the race. Phinney spent 14 months out of competition because of a serious leg injury from last year's US championships.

He's got the Breckenridge time trial on his mind. Read more from Phinney here.

124km remaining from 156km

The gap to the breakaway has exploded - now up to 4:30. Looks like this group of seven has some leeway for the first KOM, coming in a few kilometers.

Michael Torckler took out the first KOM over Clarke, Oram and Miller.

Torckler returned home to race with Budget Forklifts after spending the past two years in the US with first Bissell and then SmartStop. He had the dubious fame of coming back first from a broken kneecap and then from a far more serious head-on collision with a car in 2012.

KOM 1 results:
1 Michael Torckler (NZl) Team Budget Forklifts
2 Jonathan Clarke (Aus) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
3 James Oram (NZl) Axeon Cycling Team
4 Carson Miller (USA) Jamis - Hagens Berman

The peloton has stablised the gap to the lucky seven out front at just over four minutes. They'll have plenty of flat roads to reel them back in during the middle part of the stage before hitting the Oak Creek climb again.

The stage is two laps of the 78km circuit, so this lap is a sort of preview for the lead-out men.

One of the main contenders today has to be Keil Reijnen (UnitedHealthcare). He won the opening stage last year in Aspen, and this year won the first stage in the Tour of Utah. He's keen to relive that glory and you can hear him talk about his ambitions in this video interview.

Also in the breakaway today is Emerson Oronte, one of the new additions to SmartStop in a mid-season acquisition. Oronte rode strongly in the Tour of the Gila, coming sixth on the final stage and moving into 10th overall. You can read more about Oronte here.

111km remaining from 156km

The gap to the leaders is falling on the long, gradual descent back to Steamboat Springs. It's down to 3:00 with still 110.5km left to race.

Back in the peloton with the Cannondale-Garmin team is Ted King, the ever popular personality. He's decided to end his pro career after this season. Read more here.

Another contender for today's finish has to be Logan Owen (Axeon). The cyclo-cross champion is demonstrating an aptitude for road racing recently, having won a stage in the Tour of Utah.

Cyclingnews spoke to Owen before the race: "I'm excited and I think we have a good shot at the win today, so we are going to go out and try for the win," he said. "The course is perfect. I think it's going to be a small group sprint depending on how we race. If we push it on the climb a lot of the big sprinters will get dropped and it will leave it open for some of the guys that can make it over the hills and sprint and that's kind of what I'm good at."

Right now the gap to the leaders is falling still, now down to 2:45 just 46km in.

Another hot topic in US cycling today is the number of riders the home country will get for the World Championships in Richmond, Virginia next month. The final rankings for elite men closed on August 15, but the qualification spots are determined on both WorldTour and Continental rankings, the latter of which have not yet been published.

The USA is currently assured six spots because they are the host country, but that rule is has one caveat: they have to be in the top 5 of the UCI America Tour rankings - they were at 6th place on July 25. Tour of Utah should have pushed them up over Brazil into 5th.

Now, the fight is to be selected for the team.

102km remaining from 156km

The gap to the breakaway is holding at 3:10, with both groups hurtling along at 24mph. It's a solid but not furious pace at the moment.

The rain stopped for the race - the sun is shining, but in typical Colorado afternoon fashion, it changes with every mile.

98km remaining from 156km

The leaders see 20km to go, but they can't get too excited - they still have another 78km lap to race after they pass through the start/finish in Steamboat Springs. They'll be contesting their first intermediate sprint in 20km, however.

BMC's Michael Schär spoke to Cyclingnews' Pat Malach about this year versus past years working for Tejay van Garderen:

"It’s going to be hard to make expectations before because there are no real GC guys, like we had Tejay the years before, who controlled the whole race. The sprinters teams are for sure ready, but they don’t know how good they go over the climbs, like Kiel Reijnen, so it’s going to be an interesting race. We’ll have a lot of attacks, so I think it’s going to be a group off the front not a bunch sprint."

The Swiss rider prepared for the race by competing at Tour of Utah which helps with the altitude.

"It’s always really good to have some acclimatization. At Utah I had no time. I came straight from the Tour, and that’s a different approach to the race. It’s really hard.

"We stayed in Steamboat Springs a couple of days, so I think we’re all very ready."

88km remaining from 156km

10km to go to the end of lap 1 and the gap has gone out a bit to 3:40 for our seven leaders.

The leaders turned off of long descent/flat section at 69km. The road narrows and it gets a little windy and descends into Steamboat. When it comes to the finish, this could be a critical point for the fight for the front.

82km remaining from 156km

There are also two railroad crossings, one coming with 7.5km to go and the next with just 3.6km to go.

4km to go for the leaders to sprint 1, at the finish line.

81km remaining from 156km

The leaders have 2km to go to the sprint and the crowds are starting to build in Steamboat Springs.

The leaders are continuing to rotate all the way to the sprint point. While there are points on the line, it's unlikely they will determine who wears the green jersey tonight. 

Looks like Carson Miller (Jamis-Hagens Berman) may have taken the sprint.

It was Boivin who took out the sprint, actually

1 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Optum
2 James Oram (NZl) Axeon Cycling Team
3 Michael Torckler (NZl) Team Budget Forklifts

Steamboat Springs is a great place for a bike race - this outdoor activity-friendly town has a huge population of mountain bikers and road cyclists, in addition to skiiers, hunters etc. There is a shop that only sells helmets. Imagine that.

Boivin is the Canadian National Champion, and has been riding incredibly well this season. He's been known as a sprinter, but he's shown he's more than just that this year: In the Tour of the Gila he made the breakaway on stage 1 that ended in a big climb, and he still held off the chase to finish second. He was third overall in the GP de Saguenay, won a stage in Tour de Beauce and was 3rd in the PanAm Games road race in Toronto.

The breakaway passes a farmer waving an American flag on his tractor. They seem to be hitting it now, and are single file moving fast over the rollers.

There is a strange mix of multi million dollar estates and working ranch houses along the route.

Oram is in his last year with Axel Merckx's under 23 program. The promising young Kiwi won the Tour l'Abitibi as a junior and has won multiple stages of the Zealand Cycle Classic. Earlier this year he won a stage at the Volta ao Alentejo.

The gap to the seven leaders is holding at 3:45 with 66.5km to go.



The breakaway is taking out the gap again, adding another 15 seconds to an even four minutes.


62km remaining from 156km

The first 15km of the lap is really tough. Rolling, punchy climbs with no shade or tree cover. Then they of course have the second KOM at kilometer 113.7 after which the terrain gets much more sprinter-friendly.

The gap is falling, thanks basically to BMC, who are leading the peloton wiht the help of one Cannondale-Garmin rider.

The breakaway is wasting no time, with Kerby losing a little ground on a fast descent. He doesn't seem concerned. Up ahead Carson Miller is really pushing the pace on the turns.

Tinkoff-Saxo seems to be uninterested in helping BMC with the chase. They are without their main threat, Peter Sagan, who is racing the Vuelta instead.

This is the first year the USA Pro Challenge has had none of its previous podium finishers in the race. Last year's third place rider, Serghei Tvetcov was racing with Androni-Giocattoli, but the team is suspended after a pair of doping positives, so he is competing with the Romanian National Team, with which he won a stage and was third overall in the Tour of Szeklerland.

Norwegian Kristoffer Skjerping is the Cannondale rider doing the chasing from the peloton. He's pulled back the gap to 2:55 and dropping.

53km remaining from 156km

The peloton and breakaway are still enjoying bright sunshine and pleasant temperatures as they make their way through ranch country to the second KOM. The climb comes with just under 42km to go.

Ouch! Crash at the back of the field, a few Budget Forklifts and Novo Nordisk riders are down. It was a silly crash - a moment of inattention and a dozen riders are affected, most are back up riding.

Did a lap of @USAProChallenge Steamboat loop in the @TeamSmartStop car. @EmersonOronte looking strong in the break.

@freddreier Mon, 17th Aug 2015 20:12:13

Another team that hasn't been up front is Trek Factory Racing. US Champion Matthew Busche is recovering from a big crash at Tour of Utah, and they also have a few trainees on the team they don't want to burn up on the first stage.

Cannondale-Garmin's Ruben Zepunkte expects it to be a sprint: "It's hard with a climb at the end but I think it's a group of like sixty riders maybe," he told Cyclingnews. "Unitedhealcare goes for Kiel Reijnen I think, and SmartStop is also very good always, so I think those are the teams to beat today."

The breakaway get an updated gap from the time board, and they won't be happy to see their lead down to 2:40.

48km remaining from 156km

The breakaway are back to cooperating on the climb, while back in the bunch Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Garmin) has a laugh with Manuel Senni (BMC).

Carson Miller (Jamis) is bouncing along behind Boivin, very much in the style of 'cross racer Lars van der Haar. The effort is beginning to show on the faces of the breakaway riders.

In case you missed it, Pat Malach explains some of why the USA Pro Challenge has struggled to attract the top European riders this year in the race preview.

Another little descent has split the breakaway, with Boivin again pushing on with Miller and Clarke.

It's not long before the seven come back together as the road tilts upwards, but it's a sign that cooperation is fading.

43km remaining from 156km

Just over a kilometer to the KOM, and we'll see if Torckler can come up with the goods on the climb and wear that red jersey tonight. He'll also get $500, which is nothing to sneeze at, if he wins the jersey.

1km to the top and Oronte is leading with Torckler sitting in the middle keeping an eye out for attacks. He'll have to worry about Clarke and Oram the most.

Oronte leads it out, having gotten no points in the first KOM. Clarke is closely marking Torckler. Miller attacks now.

Clarke and Torckler get straight on Miller, and Boivin also makes it across. Definitely more than just a sprinter. Looks like only Oram and Kerby have been left behind by that surge.

Clarke goes just before the line and Torckler can't match him. It's Australia over New Zealand this time, but now tied on points, the jersey will go to whoever finishes highest on the stage.

40km remaining from 156km

The KOM sprint made it hard for the breakaway to regroup, and Boivin is just head down going as the rest wait for the two chasers.

Boivin looks around and decides that a 40km individual time trial isn't on his to-do list today, he sits up and asks the team car to come up with refreshments instead.

All that monkeying around up front has really hurt the breakaway's lead. It's down to 2:10 with BMC still in firm control. UnitedHealthcare is making an appearance for Reijnen, and Tinkoff-Saxo's neon is also moving up. The gap should begin to plummet soon.

Oronte is unhappy with the pace of his companions and pushes it a bit and gets a gap. They're just not working with maximum efficiency. In the peloton there is a group trying to chase back on after that crash.


35km remaining from 156km

The two chasers Kerby and Oram have been caught by the bunch, which is now being strung out single file by UHC's skinny climber Janez Brajkovic. Why would he chase his own man?

The reason is that Reijnen needs to be rid of the pure sprinters to have a chance at the stage win, so UHC is putting on the pressure.


The surge in the peloton has halved the gap to the leaders, now just 55 seconds.


The leaders are speeding down the descent back to Steamboat Springs. They're on a very fast piece of road right now, but it will level out.


Boivin continues to push the pace in the breakaway. He has some reinforcements, as Will Routely said to Cyclingnews: "Hopefully we start out on a high note today. We are looking for a bunch sprint and a few of us spent the last week training at altitude and we were watching Utah everyday and we watched a couple stage wins. We got Eric sprinting really well but now we have two more Canadian sprinters to add to that. I think everybody is pretty psyched."


Clarke is a passenger in the lead group, but behind three riders are escaping the peloton: one from BMC, UHC and a third - Clarke is looking around for them because two new motos have come speeding past.


30km remaining from 156km

Miller attacks - he doesn't want to wait for the chasers to get across.


Miller gets a good gap and he's really giving it his all, hammering up a short ascent that interrupts the drop back to the finish. 

Three riders have made the bridge: Tao Geoghegan Hart, Brajkovic and Rohan Dennis! That's a powerful move.


They've not managed to bring back Miller yet, however. Behind, Rovny is coming across with a Jelly Belly rider - Lachlan Morton.


28km remaining from 156km

Miller is pressing on with 15 seconds over seven riders, with the chasing group being fractured. The peloton is back at 45 seconds. 


Morton is continuing to try and spur the breakaway to action, but there's too much looking around and Miller keeps his gap. Rovny attacks!


Rovny attacks, but Dennis is having none of it. He pulls the breakaway back up to the Tinkoff rider's wheel.


It seems there is some discontent with the two UHC riders not working, and nobody wanting to help Brajkovic. It's benefitting Miller at the moment, but it's also benefitting the peloton which has those chasers in its sights.


Morton and Geoghegan Hart keep trying to push the pace. Where's this 'descent'? they all ask. 


25km remaining from 156km

Miller is in a full time trial tuck, undaunted by the distance back to Steamboat Springs. Miller is in sight of the remnants of the chase, just dangling ahead of the peloton. It's a real flat-out effort here and we have no idea how many km left to go as the tracker has been stuck on 28.4km for the past 10 minutes.


22km remaining from 156km

Phew, they've kicked the tracker and have a distance to go - 22km and Miller is caught. A group of four are clear with a small gap.


UHC, Budget Forklifts, Tinoff and BMC are the teams represented in this four man move.


21km remaining from 156km

The UHC rider is trying to get everyone to work - there seems to be some agreement for now.


More riders are trying to bridge across to the group = two are successful.  One BMC rider and a Trek rider. Sorry we can't get names yet.


The presence of that BMC rider has forced a big surge from Tinkoff-Saxo and they're just not clear anymore, but the peloton is shattering.


17km remaining from 156km

The moves have really forced a selection. BMC, Tinkoff-Saxo and one more are hurting the bunch.


It looks like that third rider is Boivin who is with the BMC rider - seems to be Rohan Dennis and the Tinkoff rider has been distanced.


14km remaining from 156km

Just 14km to go and UnitedHealthcare is trying to get people to work with them because the race is going away from them now. Boivin and Dennis are a big threat - no gap yet.


12km remaining from 156km

Axeon are also up with UHC, but so far not contributing to the chase. Only 12.5km to go and some tricky bits on the run-in.


11km remaining from 156km

The two leaders have 10 seconds now and Dennis is really hammering. Boivin is doing an amazing job to not only hold on but also contribute to the pace.


9km remaining from 156km

Just 9km to go and there's chaos in the peloton behind. One UHC rider nips off the front of the bunch and gets marked by BMC and Drapac, but it's just helping the two leaders.


8km remaining from 156km

The gap is out to 15 seconds as UHC is getting zero assistance. Last year Reijnen was a bit of a surprise but this time they're not giving him any ground.


7km remaining from 156km

Dennis and Boivin are looking at each other a little cagily now. They'll need to keep cooperating even with the power of Dennis. 25 seconds. 


Boivin takes a pull - he's probably the better sprinter on a regular day, but after 130km in the breakaway maybe not. Dennis attacks him, but he cant' shake the Canadian champion.

20" with 5.7km to go.


5km remaining from 156km

5km to go and Dennis goes back to the front. 


In the bunch Drapac attacks and it's Hincapie, Caja Rural and Jamis marking the attack. The World Tour teams have taken a back seat now.


3km remaining from 156km

All of UHC in a team time trial effort can't bring back Rohan Dennis. The Tour de France TT winner is pulling out the gap to 25 seconds. Boivin isn't shirking.


3km remaining from 156km

Just 3km to go and the peloton is shattered. Taylor Phinney is sitting behind the UHC chase in case they catch Dennis. 15 seconds.


2km remaining from 156km

Just 2300m to go now and still 15 seconds according to the tracker. It's desperate moments for UHC and Brajkovic is hammering on the front.


1.3km to go and they're in sight! Brajkovic did it.


1km remaining from 156km

Attack Drapac


The UHC chase is so played out, they can't get the Drapac rider. Tinikoff, Axeon waiting behind UHC. Here comes Phinney!


Phinney gets the gap!


Phinney gets a fairytale victory on the opening stage. Couldn't have gone to a nicer guy - what a brilliant jump. He just blasted past the Drapac rider.


Phinney showed promise in Utah, but this was far better than his third place. Reijnen is second with another UHC rider in third.


Bookwalter was third.


And look at Trek's Julian Arredondo getting mixed up in the sprint.


Your top 10:

1 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team 3:39:07
2 Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
3 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
4 Ryan Anderson (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
5 Gavin Mannion (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
6 Logan Owen (USA) Axeon Cycling Team
7 Julian Arredondo (Col) Trek Factory Racing
8 Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
9 Toms Skujins (Lat) Hincapie Racing
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team


Jonny Clarke gets to wear the mountains classification jersey thanks to his finish - little consolation, however, for Reijnen.


Phinney will have the points classification jersey, but as race leader he can't wear it. The green jersey will be worn tomorrow by Reijnen. Logan Owen is likely the best young rider 


Phinney just beams as bright as the sun on the final podium, his sheer joy enveloping the crowd. Brent Bookwalter looks pretty pleased on the podium, too.


Even Reijnen seems infected with the smiles, even though he hates losing sprints a lot. 


General classification after stage 1

1 Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
2 Kiel Reijnen (USA) UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling
3 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team
4 Ryan Anderson (Can) Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies
5 Gavin Mannion (USA) Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
6 Logan Owen (USA) Axeon Cycling Team
7 Julian Arredondo (Col) Trek Factory Racing
8 Ivan Rovny (Rus) Tinkoff-Saxo
9 Toms Skujins (Lat) Hincapie Racing
10 Damiano Caruso (Ita) BMC Racing Team


Be sure to check back with Cyclingnews as we're sure to have the tale of Phinney's moving victory after his long, very painful recovery from horrific leg injuries. Almost 15 months after a compound fracture, shattered kneecap and tendon damage a combination of great medical care and determination have him back on the top step.

We'll be providing live coverage of the entire USA Pro Challenge - come back tomorrow for stage 2. It'll be one for the climbers!

Thanks for reading.


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