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  1. #1
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Paceline Etiquette

    After reading BikeArkansas' post on a minor paceline accident I thought it might be time to review pace line etiquette for all those who are new to our ranks. So - here is another opportunity for our "pros" to give thier advice, tips and tales.

    I consider myself a fair pace liner rider - not good but fair. It's scarey, it can be very fast but you have to know what to expect to be safe. If it weren't for the rush you get from hitting those high speeds or the rest you get on those long rides it would not be worth it.

    Just before it's my time to lead I look at the average speed of the line - I will keep this pace even though I fell I could go faster. When taking the lead I try not to let the excitement of taking the lead let me accellerate. When in the lead I try to keep a constant speed no matter what the grade - if the pace is 20mph I try like hell not to slow on the small uphills (on long steep hills the paceline will break up and the goats will take the lead). Any speed changes in the leader are amplified farther back in the paceline. I try to stay well clear of road hazards - 3 to 5 feet, riders in back can't see and sometimes there are slight overlaps in bikes. I also yell a lot about hazards and my impending moves. I usually don't use many hand signals because I am controlling the bike but when I can I also point out hazards. I usually don't try to overdo it - I will pull for 5 min and then yell that I am pulling out and swing wide to the left and let the line pass. It's all about team work.

    When in the line - I try not to watch the wheel of the bike in front, I look at the rider - how he is peddling, I look ahead at the road - what I can see and I always keep a bailout plan incase something goes wrong. Just as in the front I yell out hazards and when there is an impending change in speed or direction. Keeping a tight paceline can be mentally draining because you need to stay very focused particularly when riding with riders you don't know.

    I hate the end of a long paceline - it's like getting whipped around at the end of a rope!

    Please let us know your thoughts.
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  2. #2
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Don't be "that guy" that can't ride a straight line. Even safe random sideways movements make the person behind react, thinking there's road debris or something happening with the riders ahead. And the following rider wonders if the squirrely rider knows how to safely ride in groups.

    If a gap opens up, I try not to close it fast, and then have to brake. If the pace isn't too high, with a possibility of being dropped, I'll very slowly accelerate, so the following riders can stay in my draft easily.

    My biggest problem is pulling the line when the road is all small rollers. I can't use the speedometer to keep the same pace. And my HRM reacts too slowly to small hills.

  3. #3
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    90% of my riding is alone, so I don't do a lot of pacelines, however there is one event per year where I typically spend 100miles or so in a paceline. The ride which I do is a charity ride which is broken into ~15 or 20 mile segments, we will tend to talk a lot at the rest stops to determine what pace we want to maintain for the next segment. When riding the key is to keep everything very smooth with no rapid changes in lane position, no quick accelerations and no braking. We tend not to use a lot of hand signals, but do call out verbally anything coming up such as stop signs, hazards in the road, turns etc. As a group we are more interested in staying together than in going really fast.

    When at the front I tend to take a line a bit further to the left of the road than my usual line, and usually pull for about 2 miles before signalling with my left hand, and then fading back by moving right and allowing the pace line to pass me on my left.
    With our group, if you are feeling tired, and you leave a gap to the person in front of you when the last person pulling is dropping back, that person will fill in the gap, allowing those who are not feeling very strong to stay at the back. Whenever I see this happening, when I make it back up to the front, I tend to slow the pace a bit.

  4. #4
    Let's do a Century jppe's Avatar
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    Some things I've learned the really hard way:

    (Btw-riding in a paceline is a terrific way to improve your performance, cover more ground with less energy and can be a tons of fun if the riders are respectful of each other......of course there is always the one........)

    Never, ever cross wheels with the fellow in front of you-if your front wheel catches the side of his rear wheel (or skewer), down you'll go..........(I've bumped wheels end to end several times without incident though)

    Stay in the front 1/3 of a group-the bad stuff happens behind there.

    Watch riders in several positions ahead of where you are and adjust your pace accordingly.

    If you're last in line you're gonna get dropped eventually........a gap will form by a weaker rider ahead of you and you cannot bridge up.

    Hold your line in turns-avoid moving over into others.

    Do your share of pulls (avoid Time Trialing!!) but always hold some reserve.

    Drop off of a pull at the front at the top of a climb/hill......if you try and drop off midway up a climb you'll probably get dropped as you don't have enough in reserve to jump back on. Just set the pace for the group at your pace-if someone wants to do more let them come around and pull.

    Observe the yellow line rule!!

    It's okay to push riders riding beside of you gently to the side with your elbows if their movements are unsafe.

    If you're doing a double paceline and you move to the front, move over quicker than you think and ease off a hair so the next rider can easily slide in front of you-biggest mistake is riders think they have to go faster after they've moved over to the second line.........

  5. #5
    pedo viejo
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    I don't ride pacelines often either. Once in awhile I ride with a group that does a loosely organized paceline. At first it was hard for me to remember to use hand signals and to shout 'car back', but I got used to it pretty quickly.

    Much of paceline etiquette seems obvious to me -- soft-pedal instead of braking; maintain a constant at the front; don't allow gaps to form; ride smoothly and predictably. And if possible, stay on the front at least as long as everyone else does.

    In general it's rude to hitch onto a paceline without asking permission -- even if it's just one rider. Besides, most rides I want to complete without any help. There have been rare occasions when a group of 2 or 3 just barely manage to catch up to me, and I'll mix in with them and chat for a bit; but usually the speed differential is enough that I just let 'em go.

  6. #6
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    I'd like to hear more about downhill etiquette: not 10% grade, 45-50 mph downhill, but rolling 2% downhill. Does the paceline expect a higher speed on this sort of gradual descent to keep the effort constant? Or is it more reasonable to take advantage of the grade and bump up the pace 2-3 mph? My wife and I have started to come out on our tandem with the Sat. (more casual) LBS ride and I'm going to talk to the owner about "etiquette". A couple of times last Sat. we were in the second position at the start of a small climb and the lead rider pulled out leaving us in front; of course we had to pull out immediately and grunt our way up the hill.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Ranger63's Avatar
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    A former AAU cyclist I guess I got used to a paceline where everyone knew what the h**l they were doing.
    When I got back into cycling in the mid 90s it became clear real fast the average club doesn't have the training.
    After several close calls and lack of signals, and the fact age was catching up..I decided to pull sweep.
    I know I no longer have the lung or leg to pull a line of riders along at a steady pace.
    (and I think this is an issue with a good many clubs where newer members or aging members want to ride with the A or -A group)and taking my turn at the lead is no longer effecient.
    The road conditions (maby it's the growing number of vehicles on the roads as well)seem to have deteriorated (in Western New York anyway)terribly which creates pileup problems right and left.
    The Sweep simply allows me to maintain pace with the rider in front of me, yet leave enough space between us that if crap happens it doesn't include me.
    That said; There is no sight more beautifull to me than seeing a pacline of maby 20 riders riding like a well oiled machine thru the countryside..Poetry in motion.

  8. #8
    Senior Member buddy's Avatar
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    To drop from the lead, let the people behind you know what you are about to do. Speed up to create a gap then pull to the left and drop to the back.

    Once you take the lead, let the person who just had the lead re-join the pace line before speeding up. Nothing is more rude than the new leader has cranking up the speed so that the person who had been leading is not able re-join the group and gets dropped after their hard work pulling the group. What a great reward for hard work.
    Last edited by buddy; 06-09-09 at 09:27 AM.

  9. #9
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    You definitely do not want to follow me closely under any conditions, because I have never been all that smooth, either in cadence or in lateral position. Likewise, I prefer to leave a safety gap in front of myself, just as I do when driving a car.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  10. #10
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    The do nots...

    Most importantly do not overlap wheels.

    Accelerate the pace when taking the lead.

    No coasting unless going down hill fast. Many riders do a pedal pedal coast, pedal pedal coast. This comes up due to changing wind and slope conditions and the general accordion effect of pace lines. It is much better to pedal constantly and touch your brake if you need to shed a little speed or move slightly into the wind. The problem is the rider directly behind sees the coast and reacts further exacerbating the accordion effect.

    The dos...

    Protect your front wheel at all times. If at any point, you do not think it is possible to do this, get out of the pace line.

    If the wind is coming from an angle, rotate into the wind shielding the rider taking over the lead momentarily. Echelon the line if possible in cross winds. Generally there is not enough room on the road so the lead rider should ride as far in the direction of the wind as possible while being safe and not impeding car traffic allowing other riders to angle off his wheel. My experience in practice is that most pace lines do not work well in crosswinds since the roads are not closed to traffic. In the pro and some amateur races, if the entire road is available then use the echelon technique.

    Flick your elbow when you are on lead to signal that you are going to rotate. In fast lines, it is hard to hear.

    Limit your pulls to 45 seconds. Unless it is not safe to do so. Longer pulls slow up the line. If the pace is efficient for all the riders, 45 seconds is enough. Shorter can be better.

    Get to the back as fast as possible to get your recovery. If the rotation is going at 30 to 45 second intervals, you will be up soon. The corollary to this is if the rotation period is long, then the pace will be slower. It is not possible to hold optimum power for pace line work for minutes at end. If there are a couple of really strong riders they can stay up for a minute or two but longer times in the front defeat the idea of a pace line.

    If you decide to stand, loudly announce that you are going to stand. The reason is the when you stand initially, the bike falls back 6 inches to a foot depending on how steep the hill is. If the rider behind is 6 inches from your wheel, you will hit his front wheel and he may go down.

    If you are slower or unsure of yourself stay in the back. As the riders rotate back, tell them you are staying back and open a gap.

    If this is an ad hoc group that you join and do not know, if anything does not look right or there is weird behavior, overlapping wheels and etc, get out. Do not assume everything is going to be alright. It generally is not.

    Since I have been riding at the track, my pace line skills have improved dramatically. Riding fixed gear with no brakes heightens your awareness and the track offers geometry that makes changing pace line leaders logical. Once we are going 25 mph, a one lap pull on a 330 meter track is a lot. Generally, we do 1/2 lap pulls which puts one in the lead for 12 to 15 seconds depending on speed. In a 4 man pace line the rotations come around quickly.

    When I am in a pace line on the road, I am very attentive to where would I go if there were a crash. Where is the safest place to be with respect to the rider in front - toward the traffic or toward the shoulder.

  11. #11
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jppe View Post
    Observe the yellow line rule!!
    What's the yellow line rule? - first I ever heard of that.
    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
    If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    What's the yellow line rule? - first I ever heard of that.
    Don't cross the yellow line in the center of the road. Even if you are in a double pace line, no one should be drifting back across the yellow line into the oncoming traffic lane.

    One more thing to add: Spit and launch snot rockets only when you are at the back of the line.
    oldschool areodynamic brick

  13. #13
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdtompki View Post
    I'd like to hear more about downhill etiquette: not 10% grade, 45-50 mph downhill, but rolling 2% downhill. Does the paceline expect a higher speed on this sort of gradual descent to keep the effort constant? Or is it more reasonable to take advantage of the grade and bump up the pace 2-3 mph? My wife and I have started to come out on our tandem with the Sat. (more casual) LBS ride and I'm going to talk to the owner about "etiquette". A couple of times last Sat. we were in the second position at the start of a small climb and the lead rider pulled out leaving us in front; of course we had to pull out immediately and grunt our way up the hill.
    Generally, I ride with people I know and we ride together routinely. However, like in most groups, speed depends on who shows up, temperature, terrain and etc. If I am on lead at the start of a Long 1 to 3% downhill, I usually hold level of effort or maybe take it down a little. If we are still warming up, I would definitely reduce effort and take the opportunity to catch a little recovery after the climb.

    I do not completely understand your comment about the tandem. My wife and I ride a tandem (generally not in groups but do on occasion). If we were in the 2 nd position on our tandem and the leader pulled out starting a climb, we would hold the pace that we would normally climb if we were on our singles and lead the pace line until it was time to switch.

    Are you saying that the leader pulled out and then you immediately pulled out as well?

  14. #14
    OM boy cyclezen's Avatar
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    I make a distinction between 'paceline' and 'pack'/peleton riding.
    Riding en pack or peleton is a quite bit more casual thing. This I use for almost all my group rides, most of the time. Even when restricted to 2 abreast, or even single file, 'pack' ridin means I don;t follow directly inline, I offset my wheel some 10-12 inches to lee side (or opposite side if the rider directly in front is also offset).
    Allows me to be comfortable and casual, even at a strong pace. My distance from the rider in front of me depends on my perception of their riding awareness and skill...
    'Paceline' is a much more serious thing for me. Requires much higher level of attention and positioning. It occurs only during racing or on some high level training/group rides when there's a jam or a small group might be trying to gap the peleton (or sometimes when us geez get dropped on a hard uphill and a few of us are jammin to get back on...).
    In any case, there's almost never a novice rider, no matter how strong, in a paceline like this, cause the effort and skill/attention requirements are quite extreme for their comfort/skill level.
    For those who want to develop close riding skills I suggest starting at an easy level. Settle in behind someone who seems a very steady rider, pick a gear you can spin (larger gears that make you grind cause lurching effects). Pick a comfortable distance and steady out. Offset to one side just a little. Focus attention to 3 or 4 riders in front, or even at the front of the group and only pay peripheral attention to the rider directly in front. You don't need to look at their wheel, you just need to keep them at the same relative distance, which can easily be judged by how far their head or shoulders are from you.
    If you want to change lateral position, a quick turn of the head to check space lets others know you want to slide over.
    EDIT- a good habit is to lightly 'wing' out your hand (doesn't need to be horizontal, a ft or so off your hip is 'signal' enough) on the side you wish to pull over to. This is a great attention getter for those affected by your intended sideways change, without causing alarm or undue squirreliness.

    Once in a group movements must be subtle. Don;t be a squirrel.
    That said, centuries and such group rides are NO place for pacelines. Too much disparity in intent, attention and velocity - not between paceline riders but between the paceline and the slower riders constantly being passed. If ya really gotta 'race', then get a license and go at it where its expected.
    Otherwise, turning a 'tour' ride into a hammerfest is a 'Fred'/wannabe thing.
    Last edited by cyclezen; 06-09-09 at 01:28 PM.
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  15. #15
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegheny Jet View Post
    One more thing to add: Spit and launch snot rockets only when you are at the back of the line.
    No wonder no one will follow me in a pace line...

    "Of all the things I ever lost I miss my mind the most." Mark Twain
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  16. #16
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    Very good discussion. I've been doing a lot of "pack-riding" in a group lately and doing my best not to be a nuissance. No one's yelled at me so I must be doing OK.

    Yesterday there was someone in full kit and carbon bike that would veer off randomly. He was a danger and you could see the entire club trying to stay away from him.

  17. #17
    Senior Member LarryMelman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ranger63 View Post
    A former AAU cyclist I guess I got used to a paceline where everyone knew what the h**l they were doing.
    When I got back into cycling in the mid 90s it became clear real fast the average club doesn't have the training.
    Our club has around 100 riders on its weekly rides. We sort ourselves out into pace groups, and we get along fine. I like to think we know what the h**l we're doing, but I have no clue what you're talking about in this thread.

    "Do your share of pulls (avoid Time Trialing!!) but always hold some reserve."
    "I decided to pull sweep."
    "Echelon the line if possible in cross winds."
    "Limit your pulls to 45 seconds."
    "when there's a jam or a small group might be trying to gap the peleton"

    Huh?

    So if you're going to moan that "the average club doesn't have the training", I would ask "what are you doing to help?"

  18. #18
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    Let me try this and see how many I get right.

    "Pull" -- to be in front of the paceline. You have to work hardest because you punch through the wind, you can't draft.

    "Sweep" -- to be last. You gather up the stragglers and kill them.

    "Echelon" -- the paceline is angled to take maximum advantage of the wind direction.

    "Limit" -- you can only ride up front for so long at high speeds before you peter out. Unless you're a beast.

    "Gap" -- to try to pull away from people behind you.

    Over on the Roadie forum they're trashing the book "Roadie" but I liked it and the author explains all of this and more.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Weak Link View Post
    Let me try this and see how many I get right.
    "Sweep" -- to be last. You gather up the stragglers and kill them.
    Now that's funny!

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    I'm new at this bike stuff. Next month I plan to make my first group ride with a club that rides weekly at different speeds. I'm assuming I just announce that I'm new at this and then (I hope) I'm not expected to do anything except stay in the middle of my speed group, keep the rubber side down and not get in any trouble. As a first timer, what else should I know?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mexipat View Post
    I'm new at this bike stuff. Next month I plan to make my first group ride with a club that rides weekly at different speeds. I'm assuming I just announce that I'm new at this and then (I hope) I'm not expected to do anything except stay in the middle of my speed group, keep the rubber side down and not get in any trouble. As a first timer, what else should I know?
    I just got back into cycling after 25 years off. I had 2 rides totaling 20 miles under my belt when a friend invited me to join his weekly group ride. The group had gone 70+ miles on Saturday and was doing a "short" recovery ride on Sunday. They have a no drop rule and the route was suitable for beginners, with only one wicked climb. I decided to go. It was the most fun I've had on a bike in a long, long time. Announce that you are a beginner when you get there and ask about any specific rules they adhere to. The riders at the front probably signal and call out obstacles, such as gravel and potholes and the riders at the rear call out traffic ("car back"). As you speculated, the group shouldn't expect you to do anything your aren't capable or comfortable with. There were 11 of us and we rode a double paceline at about a 20 mph pace in the flats. I stayed in the "rocking chair" (the middle, always in the draft) for most of the 29 mile ride. I made it, but was pretty tired at the end. I was holding up the rear and one of the stronger riders stayed with me to give me a draft and to provide encouragement. The leader of the group e-mailed me the next day to thank me for coming and to compliment me on my adherence to good group practices. I just asked if I didn't know and paid attention to what everyone else was doing. They were all beginners on their first group ride at some point. I can't wait until the next ride with them. Enjoy!

  22. #22
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mexipat View Post
    I'm new at this bike stuff. Next month I plan to make my first group ride with a club that rides weekly at different speeds. I'm assuming I just announce that I'm new at this and then (I hope) I'm not expected to do anything except stay in the middle of my speed group, keep the rubber side down and not get in any trouble. As a first timer, what else should I know?
    Quote Originally Posted by av8torjim View Post
    ... It was the most fun I've had on a bike in a long, long time. Announce that you are a beginner when you get there and ask about any specific rules they adhere to. The riders at the front probably signal and call out obstacles, such as gravel and potholes and the riders at the rear call out traffic ("car back"). As you speculated, the group shouldn't expect you to do anything your aren't capable or comfortable with. There were 11 of us and we rode a double paceline at about a 20 mph pace in the flats. I stayed in the "rocking chair" (the middle, always in the draft) for most of the 29 mile ride. I made it, but was pretty tired at the end. ...
    The main idea to remember is to assume there's always a rider 6 inches from your back wheel. So ride a straight line, and avoid sudden braking or swerving.

    You can always email the ride leader in advance to find out more information about the ride. My local rides quote the average speed for the whole ride, but it can be deceiving, with hills and stop lights reducing the average. For instance, one of my favorite rides climbs quite a few hills, and the quoted average of 15 mph is usually correct. But the flat road speeds can be 19-21 mph.

    The local club has rides that might only be going 15-17 mph on the flats (and a couple of rides quite a bit slower). Those rides rarely draft; the riders usually keep at least a 4 foot gap between riders.

    As speeds increase, drafting is more critical. The rides at 17-19 mph will draft more closely, but there's usually no formal rotation to the front. Often, a few strong riders tend to stay up front and pull the rest of the group.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 06-10-09 at 05:39 AM.

  23. #23
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    ^^^what he said^^^

    The hardest thing for me is the concept that someone could be six inches off my rear wheel. You have to concentrate on laying off the brakes a lot, at least I do.

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    Senior Junior Member hunyak's Avatar
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    Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes, Don't use your brakes,

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    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Weak Link View Post
    ^^^what he said^^^

    The hardest thing for me is the concept that someone could be six inches off my rear wheel. You have to concentrate on laying off the brakes a lot, at least I do.
    That is where the trust comes in. In a pace line you don't need to think about what is happening behind you if you are doing you job by riding steady. Focus your attention on what is along side and ahead of you. In a single pace line the wind can be your friend. Assuming the guy behind is riding "behind you" you can always pull out a foot or so, keeping your place in line and let the wind slow you down and provide some resistance. On slight downhills it's easy to pick up speed you don't want. Just be sure you don't overlap the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you.
    oldschool areodynamic brick

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