2017 Moab Utah Trip

Incredible times, amazing views, exceptionally great people…

I’m writing this above the clouds flying home to Texas thinking about how fortunate I am to have my life’s path intersect with this amazing group of people. People who share genuine and incredible times in beautiful places all centered around a simple two-wheel thing with pedals.

Five days ago I set off to Moab Utah for a riding trip. Now, five days later, I’m a little sore in the legs from big rides and in the face from smiling so much. The trip was centered on a bucket list and hard ride, WRIAD. White Rim In A Day is a 100 mile mountain bike ride around White Rim that has 7,000 feet of climbing. I was nervous about it.

Our first ride of the trip was to ride as much of Porcupine Rim as possible. Our group split into two, with the folks who had not done The Whole Enchilada before going all the way up to Burro Pass and the rest of us starting one section below that at Hazard County to avoid the snow and ice. I’m super happy anytime I’m on a ride where someone checks off a bucket list trail. Seeing the tired smiles after someone’s first The Whole Enchilada is great in its own right.

My Ibis HD3 felt the best it ever has as we started down Hazard County. Dialed, plush, and stable.  Photo by Randy

Porcupine Rim has so many great sections of terrain and endless levels of drops and tech from moderate to high. I was riding drops between three or four feet pretty comfortably but skipped bigger than that. The biggest stuff I rode I didn’t get pictures of because it comes up quick, manage the terrain, and then continue to rocket down the 20 plus miles of rocky down.

Moments like this are not lost on me. Incredible.

I opted out of the second ride day of the trip to rest up and prepare for the big ride the following day. I relaxed in downtown Moab at our lodging, Purple Sage. It’s the kind of place that makes you stop and appreciate all of the thought out execution and care that went into making it special. USB chargers on night stands, really comfortable, secure bike locker and bike stand, on site laundry, peaceful outdoor seating to talk about the beauty of Moab or exaggerate the height of the drop you rode down earlier, all appreciated. I highly recommend both Moab Flats and Purple Sage for your Moab lodging needs. Both are excellent!

The third riding day was WRIAD. We aimed to start the ride at 6:30, before sunrise. We all shuffled in cold dark morning mountain air, double checking our mental notes and attending to our own pre big ride rituals. Eight people set off on the adventure. Five WRIAD first timers.

In the special moments when the sun rose over the La Sal mountains it set the canvas for a perfect and big day.

We rode the route backwards compared to how it’s often ridden. We rode down Mineral Bottom road and ended our 100 miles with a soul checking climb up Shafer road.

The early ride to get to the winding mountain side Mineral Bottom road was flat and open. Time to think about the ride and scope of what was ahead.

After descending down into the canyons, the views for the rest of the day were utterly beautiful. Awe inspiring. Ever expanding. Special.

WRIAD is a big ride, I think most people take 10 plus hours to finish it in one day. It can be extra challenging to manage carrying that much water, food, extra clothing options for when the temperatures and weather shift. We had amazing friends provide the SAG truck and drive it behind us all day at distance. Not a small feat considering single lane passes more than a thousand feet above death with no guard rails, some serious other off-road terrain, taking a weekend away from life to help a bunch of semi crazy people do something they set their mind to. If anything went wrong, needed food or water, or if you had to call it and early day for any reason, you could stop and the truck full of supplies and smiling people were there. Beth and Nick, thank you for largely making our WRIAD ride possible. Really.

White Rim itself was great. Riding along it for largely the whole day was special. I think it’s more beautiful than the Grand Canyon based on the variety in colors and both negative and positive elevation terrain.

Mile after mile…

100 miles on a mountain bike is a long ride, much more than riding a century on the road. I felt pretty good all day. I was very active in my hydration and food intake. I started to tire around mile 85 but had legs to finish.

Checking off miles one at a time…

Around mile 95 the sun set. A special thing to ride during twilight in beautiful scenery and also to have for the fist time ever, seen both a sunrise and a sunset in the same ride.

The trouble is we had five miles left, and three of which are a brutal thousand foot climb out up switchbacks with lots of exposure. The type of falls where if it happen, it wouldn’t send you to the hospital but rather the grave.

With about two miles and 800 plus feet left in the climb it was pitch black to my eyes. Only the moon and stars to light the way. The kind of dark where you can put your hand six inches in front of your face and not see it. Scary to be honest, knowing a fall to your death was less than 15 feet away and you can’t see. I don’t think I was ever in any real danger but I wasn’t prepared to take any extra chances.

My phone, typically tasked to take these pictures shifted to a more serious task, keep me safe. I pushed and rode up the last two miles with my phone in my hand using it as a flashlight. We didn’t plan to be out there as long as it took us or we would have brought proper riding lights. WRIAD being a big ride with eight people is hard to have all possible events planned and accounted for.

When I saw the vehicles we pedaled away from 13 hours and 33 minutes before I was happy to have completed the ride. It was dark, 41º F. We were tired and soaking in the achievement realized. I couldn’t have done it without the SAG vehicle and people around me all day.

A great trip, truly special. WRIAD, my number one bucket list ride checked off, another ride down Porcupine Rim possibly the best trail on Earth in the books, great memories, great people.

Related: 2015 Moab Utah Trip

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Spring Knoxville MTB Trip

I joined some friends for a spring mountain bike trip this weekend in Knoxville Tennessee. We largely rode the Urban Wilderness trails. It was a fun trip to see some good friends I’ve not seen in a bit. I slept in my Element part of the way from Texas to Tennessee on the drive up to our Air BNB house rental. My element and Ibis are as dependable as ever.

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2016 Lake Tahoe Trip

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The highlight every year cycling for me are the big group trips. Winning a race is amazing, but doesn’t come anywhere close to a great trip. Time spent with special people who feel like family, amazing locations, and shared experiences that will last a lifetime are as good as it gets for me. This year, we traveled to Lake Tahoe, California. The week we spent was perfect, great weather, amazing trails, smiles shared on the porch around meals, I could go on and on…

A lot of the amazing downs are captured in the video at the bottom of this post. Check that out, I’m pretty proud of it.

Day One, Cold Water Downhill – Garmin Data

After unpacking our bikes and building them up, I joined a good friend for an out and back to get our tires into some Lake Tahoe downhill action. The trail’s surface was made up of sandy granite dust, dirt, and rock. The elevation wasn’t as bad as trips to high mountain areas but rides starting around 6,500′ and climbing to above 9,500′ on some days did remind you where you were.

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Day Two, Armstrong Pass to Corral Downhill – Garmin Data

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My loved Ibis HD3 and I were in real harmony this trip. It’s dialed in to what I wanted in a trail bike almost to my idea of perfection. I love the one by eleven drivetrain. The 28 tooth chain ring paired with the 42 tooth cog allowed for easy work up any pitch and the 10 tooth cog allowed me to pedal as fast as I dared. The brakes were great, the tires were great, I’m really happy with the bike.

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My good friend Matt riding his Ibis HD3 much better than I can, making fun work of the terrain. It’s really fun to ride behind him until he disappears riding away from me. His bike skills as well as his character are equally impressive, and I look up to both traits, even if his signing is pretty bad on the climbs. Spending time with him and his family make these trips a great experience.

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Day Three, Star Lake Loop – Garmin Data

This was our big ride of the week, climbing over 3,800′ to Freel Pass at 9,535′. The last 1,000′ were pretty steep and tough. The views were great up there though.

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On the descent, we passed by Star Lake, a real beauty tucked away in the mountains that my iPhone picture doesn’t do justice.

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Day Four, Family Beach Time

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Day Five, Mr. Toads Wild Ride – Garmin Data

Mr. Toads Wild Ride is probably my favorite downhill I’ve ever ridden. It’s really good. The top section has tech far bigger than I feel comfortable riding but it soon fades into tech right at or slightly above my comfort level, making for great fun. The trail didn’t let up like many of the downhills I’ve ridden. Mr. Toads Wild Ride felt like the tech, speed, and fun were turned up the entire down. I loved it.

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Day Six, Armstrong Pass to Corral Downhill Revisited – Garmin Data

We revisited the Corral Downhill on day six, it didn’t disappoint the second time, great trail.

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Day Six, Flume Trail – Garmin Data

Flume Trail was one I wanted to ride after hearing about it, so I doubled up on my last day to catch it. The ride had a 1,400′ sandy climb up and down on the out and back route I rode. There wasn’t any real tech and once on Flume Trail, there was no real climbing or descending, but the views of Lake Tahoe were second to none. The beauty of the ride for me is only rivaled by 401 in Crested Butte, CO.

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Beyond the amazing riding, this vacation was perfectly rounded for me personally. There was a great balance of family time, resting away from work, hanging out with friends, and cycling. It was a great recharge, and a reminder of what cycling trips mean to me.

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Here’s a video I put together of some of the downhill awesomeness. The climbs were definitely worth it. The video is a bit shakey in parts and there’s the occasional annoying Camelbak chest strap in the view. I’m still learning and to be fair, tech is bumpy :)

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2016 Giant City Trip

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This weekend I joined my teammates in southern Illinois for four days of road riding. It’s my fourth year going to annual trip, and it seems to get better every year. The weather was beautiful all weekend with temps ranging from mid 50º’s in the morning and mid 70º’s in the afternoon. The rain stayed away every ride and the winds were manageable.

The roads around Makanda Illinois are great for road riding. Lot’s of elevation to go up and down, what feels like turns and hills every quarter-mile or less make it a roller coaster all weekend.

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The breakfast every morning at the lodge is one of my favorites. Hearing about moves from the previous days rides, tales exaggerated, or stories of shenanigans from the previous night are the perfect complement to the good food.

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Our lodge was great this year and served as the hangout most evenings including the second annual wine tasting party, a favorite of the weekend. The breathalyzer that shows up every year adds some excitement to the evening.

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Friday’s ride had a little extra gasoline added to the fire with the help of eight of us representing our Illinois State Champion jersey’s, something that seems to draw out more fun fierce riding.

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My weekends riding totals tallied to 211.9 miles ridden, 14,101 feet of elevation climbed, in just under 12 hours pedaling. I love cycling trips, I love this team, I love this yearly thing I get to be involved with. It’s the type of weekend for me that I know I’m living in one of those moments that you’ll look back on and tell stories and smile about.

Day 1 Ride Data
Day 2 Ride Data
Day 3 Ride Data
Day 4 Ride Data

2015’s Giant City Trip
2014’s Giant City Trip

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Alabama Spring MTB Trip

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One of the best parts of spring in terms of cycling is the excitement to get outside and ride. Some of my friends and I put a spring mountain bike trip together to Alabama over the winter to get in some warm dry trail time. This past weekend we enjoyed the fruits of our planning. We spent three days riding Oak Mountain and Coldwater Mountain trail systems with great weather, it was a lot of fun. I loved the mix of real deal flow and rock tech. Hanging out with friends both on the trail and off was a relaxing and great time. My Ibis has never felt better, I love the one by drivetrain.

Day one was a shorter 10 mile ride racing the weather to get in a loop at Oak Mountain.

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We stopped by Good People Brewery for a post ride drink after day one before dinner at an old train station that’s been transformed into a really neat restaurant.

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The house we rented for the weekend was an older home with a great porch to hang out on and soak in some southern sunshine.

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The second day was a full loop at Coldwater Mountain.

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Day three was a return to Oak Mountain for a full day of riding.2016-03-26 17.45.19 2016-03-26 17.13.04

The Boulder Ridge trail at Oak Mountain was one of my favorites of the trip. Here’s a short video of me rolling through some tech shot by a good friend.

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The trip was a great bonus to the spring so far. It feels like we all added a great trip into our year super early. We enjoyed some tech and flow not found at home, southern hospitality, and sunshine. My favorite trails of the trip were Boulder Ridge, a traversing large rock filled tech trail I could spend hours on finding new lines up and down larger rocks than my car and Thunder trail at Oak Mountain. Thunder trail was easily the most flowly trail I’ve ever ridden. It had deep cut berms on every turn, sixty foot rolling ravines and more six-foot rollers you could pump or jump than you can count. The combination of those two trails alone was worth the trip. I’ll be happy to add the spring MTB trip into a yearly event, it was a reenergizing and relaxing time spent with good people on good trails.

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2015 Moab Utah Trip

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What an amazing trip… My family and I joined some great friends for just over a week in Moab, Utah. The company, trails, and weather were terrific. I checked off The Whole Enchilada and Slickrock, two of my bucket list trails in addition to others. The terrain was unlike anything I’ve ever ridden before.

The trip started with my luck of never losing any luggage on trips coming to an end…

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All of my riding gear was in the bag so I was in bad shape for the planned week of riding. Relief came in the middle of the night when the powers that be located my bag and had it delivered to our good friends lovely home.

Day One, Moab Brand Trails – Garmin Data

We drove into Moab with about an hour and a half of sun burning through the ridges on the range. The perfect setting for my first ride in Moab.

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Looking across the desert to the La Sal Mountains where The Whole Enchilada lays waiting for us later in the trip.

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I have a handful of rides that rise above the rest to be my favorite memories. That first ride in Moab made the list, and I knew it pretty early into the ride. The warm glow of the sun setting on the desert range, the great friends I was sharing the experience with, and my long waited first ride in Moab. It was great.

After our first ride, we made our way to Moab Flats, our sleeping arrangements for the trip.

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Photo from moabflats.com

I was blown away at how nice everything was here. Everything was excellent from the beautiful flats, to the small details that made it feel like you were staying at someone’s really nice home. There was a locked storage setup for bikes including a bicycle stand and hose for cleaning. There was a secure patio area with hot tub, grill, and very nice outdoor seating. It was one of the nicest places I’ve ever spent time in. If you are in the area, I would highly recommend staying here.

Day Two, The Whole Enchilada – Garmin Data

This was the it, the trail that has been at the top of my want to ride list since I’ve had a list. I’ve waited years, heard a lot of hype, and was finally ready to clip in and discover it for myself. We finished the hour-long shuttle up to the Burro Pass trailhead before sunrise and prepared for the ride in the brisk fall high elevation temperatures. The warmer desert temps were very nice as we descended. The trailhead is at 10,300 feet elevation and you then climb Burro Pass at 11,200 feet elevation. At the top of Burro Pass, you have 8,000 feet of descent to look forward to.

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Climbing Burro Pass2015-10-17 07.59.30 2015-10-17 08.28.08 2015-10-17 08.00.36

The descent off of Burro Pass was great single track filled with steep rocky sections and lots of switchbacks. One of the neatest things I took away from riding The Whole Enchilada was how great it was to experience the different kinds of environment. We started in the Pine trees, transitioned into Aspen trees, and then into the desert.

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My talented friend riding the entrance to LPS from UPS.

Overall The Whole Enchilada was really great. I underestimated the difficulty of the ride, and came home pretty tired that day. I’m not as fit as I was earlier in the season. The constant rocks, drops, and moves you have to make took their toll on me by the end of our almost five-hour ride. It was an amazing experience and I enjoyed it immensely.

Day Three, Amasa Back, Hymasa, Pothole, Rock Stacker, Captain Ahab – Garmin Data

The Amasa Back, Hymasa, Pothole, Rock Stacker, Captain Ahab loop we did was a lot of fun. It had great vistas, flowy sections, great downhills, and features that ranged from small to much bigger than anything I’d ride.

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My talented friend riding the qualifier for Rockstacker and a drop towards the end of the Captain Ahab descent.

Day Four, Slickrock – Garmin Data

Moab was tough on bikes, lots of rocks that would like to leave a character building mark or slowly eat your tires with the sandpaper like surface. I needed to have a rotor trued after a few days of riding. I know a guy that is an avid rider and works at Moab Cyclery, so I swung by. They had my bike back to perfect in no time with their walk up service.

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Slickrock was the other check box for me on the trip. It’s such a famous trail that seems to make so many of the “Must Ride Trail” lists. My experience was different from I thought it would be. I expected to find trail that involved up and down moves, like ledges. What I found was none of that, but steep rock faces, both up and down. I was shocked at how steep some of the faces you climb and go down were. I swear some of the angles the trail goes up are beyond 60%. My fear of heights stopped me from trying some of the longer climbs where if you didn’t make the whole climb you’d be rolling down rock for a while. Overall, it was great, unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

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Day Five, Family Zoo Time

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Day Six, 7-Up – Garmin Data

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7-Up was a fun trail with equal parts sand and rock. We ran into a pretty decent weather front and bailed to head back to the truck.

We ended the week with a return trip to Amasa Back, Hymasa, and Captain Ahab. That ride was sans camera, just to take it all in with no distractions. We rode up through the canyon a little after sunrise, La Sal mountain range in the background looking back at us. A fitting end to the trip. A great time with great people. I’m really glad I have the opportunity to do these trips with my friends and family.

And just like that, another great trip transitioning into great memories.

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2015 Sufferfest Colorado Trip

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This past weekend I joined some good friends on a yearly gathering for high elevation mountain biking in Crested Butte and surrounding areas. The trip is jokingly named Sufferfest because of the long climbs at high elevation, normally between 9,000 feet and 12,000 feet. The rides get bigger as the trip goes on ending in the Kenosha to Breckenridge ride which covers about 5,000 feet of climbing in just over 30 miles. We spend four days riding famous trails over the holiday weekend. Spending time with great people, lots of climbing, lots of technical fun descents, and the beauty of Colorado.

My freshly reassembled Ibis HD3 out of the bike bag ready to hit some Colorado trails

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Day One, Dr. Park Trail – Garmin Data

The climb to the top of Dr. Park starts on a dirt road evolving into double track, and lastly single track. The creek crossing at about the half way point is cold from the melting snow but such a great aspect of the ride for me, it’s just part of the experience.

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The descent of Dr. Park starts with some technical rocks, moving on to a flow and pump section that begs for you to let go of any brakes and feel the wind in your face. The last section of the down is more arid and has larger rocks. There are some great switchbacks to drop you the last few hundred feet of the ride.

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Day Two, Hartman Rocks Trail – Garmin Data

The Hartman Rocks trail was a day of change to ride dry trail as Crested Butte had a lot of rainfall on day one. The terrain was exposed to the sky, full of smaller climbs and descents, usually with exposed large rock structures.

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Day Three, Monarch Crest Trail – Garmin Data

Riding Monarch Crest is a big day. The ride starts above 11,000 feet elevation climbs up from there. This ride beat me up last year, and I was nervous about it going into this trip. This year there were clouds on the mountain that we climbed up and through. It was a pretty neat experience.

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As the day went on the sky’s cleared and we were treated to the great views that Monarch has to offer. The trail’s climbs, descents, and views make it an all time favorite which I was able to enjoy this year without bonking. To be fair, we did bail out before the Rainbows section this year.

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In between all of these great rides were good times spent around a campfire or eating at a local restaurant. At night, we were often treated to endless stars.

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Day Four, Kenosha To Breckenridge Trail – Garmin Data

The big ride, this one had me nervous. We cross three mountain passes climbing almost 5,000 feet over the course of the 32 mile ride. The first pass we climb is Georgia Pass, a 12,000 foot peak. The climb is filled to the brim with rocks and roots making every foot of the climb work. You get above tree line at around 11,300 feet on this ride, a rewarding experience.

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The descent on the backside of Georgia Pass is filled with technical rock sections and switchbacks.

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The second climb is steep and mean, but once crested, the hardest parts of the ride were conquered. I was in a happy place once I started down the second descent. I knew I was going to finish the ride, and my goal for the trip, to ride every mile.

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The ride ends with a handful of tight switchbacks arriving in Breckenridge. Last year when I watched friends from the sideline make that final descent, I had big aspirations of being able to finish the ride in the future. This year, I did. I ended the weekend with 12,500 feet climbed at high elevation. Every switchback of the last descent felt like a victory lap of personal accomplishment. I was in a happy, but tired place.

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And with that last switchback, the trip was over. Bikes packed, planes boarded, and headed back to Illinois as I type this. Colorado is a special place and I feel privileged to have experienced a small piece of it with such good people. Another great cycling trip transitioned from great times to great memories.

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