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  1. #1
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Help make racing better.

    For track folks, most of us went through these programs already, or taught these programs, so I don't need to explain their value.

    http://tinyurl.com/mcle3d7

    "USA Cycling should create a mandatory education and certification process for new road and track racers and eliminate one day licenses for mass start events without this certification"

    Given that these programs already exist in numerous locations on a voluntary basis, the wheel doesn't need to be reinvented, nor will things need to be created out of a vacuum. There are plenty of coaches and promoters out there that already provide these services, often for free.

    Having had an opportunity to race all over the country, and work in various mentoring programs, I've seen what works and what doesn't. Hope doesn't. Education and mentoring does.

    Sign and pass it on.


    "Bicycle racing is an inherently dangerous sport where serious injuries and deaths occur. Presently USA Cycling, the primary sanctioning body for bicycle racing in the US, allows anyone with $15 dollars to enter a race with a "one day" license, without verifying that they have any prerequisite skills or knowledge whatsoever.

    Creating a uniform mandatory education and certification process will increase safety, improve the rider experience, increase retention of racers, and reduce insurance costs.

    Such processes are commonplace in sports like auto and motorcycle racing where the participants have the same risk while having superior safety equipment.

    Voluntary programs (some no cost) to provide new bike racers with skills and knowledge exist in several locations in the US, providing USA Cycling with models to use.

    As racers, cyclists, family, and friends, we call on USA Cycling to put a mandatory education and certification process in place prior to allowing new riders to compete in mass start events."

  2. #2
    Senior Member VanceMac's Avatar
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    +1

  3. #3
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    Playing devil's advocate: How might this operate outside of areas with a dense population of cyclists? It's a good idea, but could be logistically difficult for those of us in the cycling hinterlands.
    Regards,
    Chuck

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    Senior Member cannondale125's Avatar
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    I want to start racing! But I won't in fear of safety everyone tells me it takes training to ride in a group going into turns.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Velocirapture's Avatar
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    Devil's advocate #2 - There are often (in my experience, especially on the track) instances of experienced cyclists who are returning to the sport a bit older or crossing from road or mtb onto the track, who are more than competent but not yet back into the swing of race licences etc. Making annual racing licences obligatory excludes these guys and other new people who are getting up to speed and seeing if they are happy to commit. Auto and motor-cycle racing automatically means more funds (usually), so its less of an issue.

    The bulk of road and mtb racers are 'funriders' out here - and this is the pool that feeds into more serious racing. Higher-level racing could lose out a helluva lot by limiting guys building their way up (sometimes over a few years). Maybe its not an issue in some other regions, but mandatory certification could cramp a lot style.

    That said, safety is still important.
    "cycle racing is an inherently dangerous sport where serious injuries and deaths occur." . Sounds like life ;-). We don't have any certification processes here for riding on the track, unfortunately. And although we recently lost a top rider in a horrible accident (who would have had all the licences necessary, anyway), there have only been 3 fatalities nationally here in the last 30 years. Perhaps its worth looking at all the stats of rider-numbers, injuries, licences etc, before deciding on the best way forward from a safety perspective?
    "All this talk of climbing is making me feel kinda queasy..." -- Baby Puke

  6. #6
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    I signed. Agree with Racer Ex and feel one day licenses are an irresponsible money-maker for USAC.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    So, uh, has anyone bothered to find out if this is an actual problem needing solving before rushing out to put up yet another barrier to entry to this sport? Right now, track beginner cert programs are track dependent, as it should be, since tracks vary wildly. For road? I'm not sure this is actually a problem.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  8. #8
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    For the folks in less densely populated areas, it's going to be like getting to any race, only it will be a clinic. When I was a new rider instructor for the AFM, we had guys show up from all over the country. Find me a coach that doesn't want to meet a new potential client or a promoter that won't find a way to get people into his race. Locally it could be a one on one with a local coach or other person certified to do the class.

    We don't let people fly planes without a license just because they live a long way from an airport. People who want to fly and live in Nowhereistan find a way.

    And I'd say that people in cycling's hinterlands where they don't have access to to big group rides or Tuesday night world's need this much more than people who spend Wednesday mornings getting killed by Chris Horner and yelled at by Cat 1's.

    As for #2 it's not clear what "obstacle" there is. New riders need the class and cert. Not returning riders. In both cases the "one day " license is still an option, just not for some walk in off the street.

    As for statistics, who cares unless you're trying to make a case that racing is safer the less competent and knowledgeable people are. And it's a fool's errand. We need to remember that the people who get injured or killed are often the victims of someone else's dumb riding, often the bad rider heads off unscathed. It's happened to more people than I can count, myself included.

    Right now we send people off with a styrofoam cup on their head wearing women's underwear to ride side by side with 50 people at 30MPH on courses littered with fire hydrants, curbs, fences, metal posts, Etc. We don't even check to see if they know their front brake from their back. That's a problem.

    During one mentoring session I had a guy with his helmet so loose that I knocked it off with one finger. I guess that's only a problem if you actually fall and hit your head. The list is long on what folk's don't know that can hurt them. After a bunch of years of coaching, mentoring, and teaching racing I can say that yes, we have a problem. I've spoken with a wide swath of coaches and promoters who agree with this.

    It's pretty appalling how unprepared and ignorant some of these folks are. And how grateful they are when they get some help.

    As for "another barrier" you mean in addition to having $15 dollars? Because that's the only "barrier" right now.
    Last edited by Racer Ex; 04-09-14 at 04:19 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    I dunno. I would say that probably the most dangerous rider at any race is the recently upgraded Cat4. Noobs know they don't know sht, and human nature means they are naturally conservative. The guy who just did 10 races in five consecutive weekends is just starting to think that he is the sht. I would target the most dangerous racers, but we don't know who those are, now do we? It could well be that we keep Cat5 a noob slushpool and require a rather in-depth training course to upgrade into Cat4. Bring back the "citizen's category", basically.

    The point is, we don't know without data.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  10. #10
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    I dunno. I would say that probably the most dangerous rider at any race is the recently upgraded Cat4. Noobs know they don't know sht, and human nature means they are naturally conservative. The guy who just did 10 races in five consecutive weekends is just starting to think that he is the sht. I would target the most dangerous racers, but we don't know who those are, now do we? It could well be that we keep Cat5 a noob slushpool and require a rather in-depth training course to upgrade into Cat4. Bring back the "citizen's category", basically.

    The point is, we don't know without data.
    There's validity in that the recent upgrade folks think they are the shnit. But if at least we've taught them something prior to that upgrade they will have a clue and some basic skills and etiquette. I've seen people go to 2 and still not be able to handle their bikes as well as someone I've spent a day with teaching some basics.

    As for data, there isn't any. But go ask anyone who's worked in or gone through a program like I've described who thought it made them or the people they have taught better/safer racers. You'll get a 95% positive rating.

    You can either start with a baseline of competency, or a baseline of incompetency.

    If you want to make the case for the latter, and feel that people will be worse off with basic racing knowledge, have at it.

    Tell me how the guy with the loose helmet was just as safe without the program if he was in a citizen's race.
    Last edited by Racer Ex; 04-09-14 at 04:53 PM.

  11. #11
    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by revchuck View Post
    Playing devil's advocate: How might this operate outside of areas with a dense population of cyclists? It's a good idea, but could be logistically difficult for those of us in the cycling hinterlands.
    The same way people get any other cert, go to where the class is being held.

    I've told this story before: I've witnessed a collegiate coach explaining track basics to a handful of his athletes while on the track with them the day before nationals. They were crit racers who figured "track racing is like a crit, right?"

    We all have stories like that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Velocirapture View Post
    Devil's advocate #2 - There are often (in my experience, especially on the track) instances of experienced cyclists who are returning to the sport a bit older or crossing from road or mtb onto the track, who are more than competent but not yet back into the swing of race licences etc. Making annual racing licences obligatory excludes these guys and other new people who are getting up to speed and seeing if they are happy to commit. Auto and motor-cycle racing automatically means more funds (usually), so its less of an issue.

    The bulk of road and mtb racers are 'funriders' out here - and this is the pool that feeds into more serious racing. Higher-level racing could lose out a helluva lot by limiting guys building their way up (sometimes over a few years). Maybe its not an issue in some other regions, but mandatory certification could cramp a lot style.

    That said, safety is still important.
    "cycle racing is an inherently dangerous sport where serious injuries and deaths occur." . Sounds like life ;-). We don't have any certification processes here for riding on the track, unfortunately. And although we recently lost a top rider in a horrible accident (who would have had all the licences necessary, anyway), there have only been 3 fatalities nationally here in the last 30 years. Perhaps its worth looking at all the stats of rider-numbers, injuries, licences etc, before deciding on the best way forward from a safety perspective?
    At DLV, even guys who are Pro/1/2 on the road must take a track etiquette class and race several beginner nights and move up through the divisions one step at a time. They may move up faster, in a matter of weeks opposed to months or years, but they definitely don't go right into a P/1/2 field the day they buy a track bike. The track director at DLV (Jeff Hopkins) even makes the P/1/2 beginner riders stay in the pack with the scrubs until the final sprint even though they are capable of riding off the front and never looking back.

    In some regions, track is an afterthought. It's like a "fun ride" type of thing. I've seen some promoters hold events and allow anyone to do anything. It's a mess.

    I am a really strong advocate for track safety and etiquette training. Most of the rules (outside of UCI non-superman-position nonsense) are rooted in safety. 99.999% of us are not getting paid to do this. We all want to ride safely in a safe environment.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    ...
    Tell me how the guy with the loose helmet was just as safe without the program if he was in a citizen's race.
    I think we can all agree that a basic equipment check before the Cat5's roll might be something worth bringing back.

    And I don't necessarily disagree with the notion of a cert. But I don't think it's wise to just throw up a barrier to entry on a sport that is already starved for participation. First, cat 5 fields are traditionally fairly large. I think it's something more than a couple coaches donating an afternoon of their time can handle, especially when most of the demand for these courses will be bunched up at the start of the seasons. Our first road race in Oregon might have two fields of 50 riders for Cat5. Who has time to give an hour long, hands-on class to 100 riders the day of a race? Who's going to organize a the classes to prep over 100 riders the week or two before the season starts?

    Second, once you put up a barrier, if it does have unintended consequences (lack of rider participation, for instance; maybe women's racing disappears altogether), it is very difficult to walk back. People who want to race will be quickly informed of the barrier when they attempt a race. Those who loosely want to try racing, when informed of a barrier, might decline. If the barrier is later let down, word of that might be very slow to get out. A barrier to entry must be paired with a serious drive to increase growth, otherwise you risk starving the sport of participants.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  13. #13
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Also, most of my comments are regarding road cycling. I think track faces different obstacles and a track run cert program for new racers is essential.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  14. #14
    Senior Member VanceMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    But I don't think it's wise to just throw up a barrier to entry on a sport that is already starved for participation. First, cat 5 fields are traditionally fairly large. I think it's something more than a couple coaches donating an afternoon of their time can handle
    So which is it?

    Not trying to be snarky... but I don't see road/crit racing having any problems with barriers. I may have a skewed perspective being in southern California, but you could force men (women are a different conversation) to take a month-long course, and they'd still be filling every cat 5 and cat 4 race they can put on. And honestly, why is making it easy more important than making it safer? My club is over 500 people. About 1/10 race more than once/year. I know that number would be at least double if they perceived that safety (and accountability) were priorities for USAC and the promoters.

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    Elitist carleton's Avatar
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    Yeah, CAT5 Crits have a bad reputation for a reason. People scramble to get out of CAT5 as quickly as possible. I think if it were safer, it wouldn't have that reputation (deserved or not deserved).


    (I'm CAT5 on the road, BTW....hahaha). I've never raced a crit, but I have taken a 1-day crit cert course

  16. #16
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    I'm generally in favor of requiring people to have basic skills before they do something dangerous, even if it's inconvenient. I also raced with AFM, so maybe am used to everybody having to go through a fairly expensive and time consuming certification process, but if you wanna do something, and that's the requirement, you just do it, right?

    This is dangerous. It's not like playing baseball or something. It's worthwhile being able to feel confident that those around you in a race have some idea what they're into. In Japan (oh god, here he goes about Japan again...) they were indeed very strict about getting on the track, and they suffered absolutely no bull**** whatsoever or you were done, period. Don't come back, done. I've got a kid now, so I don't race keirin in the US. I raced keirin while in Japan with no compunction whatsoever as I knew I could trust those around me. Yes there was the occasional bumping and whatnot but no bonehead moves. I went back to visit last fall. You know what? I raced keirin. Still don't here.

    Ok, I realize this is apples and oranges, and I'm done. But safety is always a good idea. It won't stop all disasters of course, but it's a start. For me, letting those who don't want to hassle with certification race in order to improve participation isn't worth it. If you really want to do something, you'll figure out how to do it. Those who won't probably shouldn't.

  17. #17
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VanceMac View Post
    So which is it?

    Not trying to be snarky... but I don't see road/crit racing having any problems with barriers. I may have a skewed perspective being in southern California, but you could force men (women are a different conversation) to take a month-long course, and they'd still be filling every cat 5 and cat 4 race they can put on. And honestly, why is making it easy more important than making it safer? My club is over 500 people. About 1/10 race more than once/year. I know that number would be at least double if they perceived that safety (and accountability) were priorities for USAC and the promoters.
    Maybe you're right. Maybe the focus should purely be on safety. But, the sport is tiny, the racers are mostly middle-aged white collar, rather wealthy men playing bikes, and most of these people don't really make it past Cat4. At any one early season road race, there might be an overflow of Cat5 men, but certainly barriers in place with such a narrow demographic represented. My point is that maybe we should take a peek and see what the problem might actually be before running around making up solutions. Surely the current system can hold up for a couple more seasons while we get some numbers...
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Another way of saying what I'm trying to say, is that to fix the issues we are talking about, we need more youth cycling. Juniors should be the largest field at any race. I don't think tacking on a required skills clinic is going to help anything when the people they are teaching are primarily 25-40 year old men.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  19. #19
    Senior Member wens's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Another way of saying what I'm trying to say, is that to fix the issues we are talking about, we need more youth cycling. Juniors should be the largest field at any race. I don't think tacking on a required skills clinic is going to help anything when the people they are teaching are primarily 25-40 year old men.
    USAC needs to get into high schools. This conversation seems way off topic though.
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  20. #20
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff View Post
    Another way of saying what I'm trying to say, is that to fix the issues we are talking about, we need more youth cycling. Juniors should be the largest field at any race. I don't think tacking on a required skills clinic is going to help anything when the people they are teaching are primarily 25-40 year old men.
    At this point I have no idea what issues you are talking about helping. If it's a lack of juniors then yes, this doesn't address that. If it's too many 25-40 year old men in the sport, then you can quit and there will be one less

    It simply addresses that currently we require zero skills or knowledge before letting people race. I believe, based on some 46 years of racing everything from gokarts to Moto GP that this does not serve new participants well, nor the people who they will be racing with.

    A one day class is not a barrier. It's giving someone a lifejacket before they go white water rafting. Pretty simple concept.

    FWIW I mentored at least 8 Cat 5 races. There was one crash. Out of 8 Cat 5 races. I would put that record up against any other 8 Cat 5 races where there wasn't any instruction or mentoring.

    Your speculation that there won't be enough people to give the classes is not born out by facts on the ground where there are programs in place.

  21. #21
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    I've spoken with a lot of new racers who feel pretty daunted toeing the line at their first race - so it would be nice to have broad availability of resources that would lessen that feeling. Instructional clinics, sure (good arguments on both sides for making those mandatory); but also, more open clubs, more group rides with more of those old, opinionated, but overall friendly guys on group rides who tell newbs what they're doing wrong and tell them how to do it right.

    I think in the blogs-and-powermeters era a lot of cycling things have gone from social/communal to individual, and that's too bad.
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  22. #22
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    My two cents:

    It took 3 visits to the velodrome for the promoter to start letting me race. The first week I was only riding up track and not with any racers/just the promoter before he had to run the races. Then i was pretty much confined to the warmup track/infield within the track during races. The second week they introduced me to a pacing line and getting on the track between races. The third week I got to race in the beginner field that didn't have many riders and the regulars that were racing with me knew i was just starting out since this was the third week they saw me.

    It should be on the promoter/track to use their discretion. GSV makes you take a track 101 course before racing or at least a refresher if you haven't raced track in a while. It's still a new program (relatively) that most beginners who want to check it out have never ridden a fixed gear before. That in and of itself takes some instruction/getting used to. I don't like the idea of a mandatory certification process (the idea of more rules sounds dauntingly restrictive but maybe I'm just a young punk) however I do agree with a course before you race. Granted this is only from the track side of the argument. I never raced prior to getting to the track. It shouldn't be mandated by USAC but already in place by the track.

    It's like a federal law vs. a state law. Every track/state is different so the rules should be similar but not exactly the same. Example: GSV is 400m and i haven't been on smaller track. I would not be comfortable just jumping into a race on a smaller track without any experience. That is not to say I'm not comfortable driving in another state, but the rules/roads may be different as well.

  23. #23
    Resident Alien Racer Ex's Avatar
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    Right now US bike racing is like SCUBA was in the 60's. Got money to rent a tank and a regulator? Here you go. Press this button, turn this valve. Don't hold your breathe coming up.

    More than a few people fought the certification process when it was introduced. Now nobody could imagine that you'd just hand over equipment to someone without any training.

    The training and certification process actually opened up the sport to a whole new market and grew it exponentially.

    In the end if someone doesn't want to "waste" maybe $40 (or nothing) and a day learning how to race their bike, do we want them in there?

  24. #24
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
    Right now US bike racing is like SCUBA was in the 60's. Got money to rent a tank and a regulator? Here you go. Press this button, turn this valve. Don't hold your breathe coming up.

    ...
    No. It's not. In SCUBA, it would seem to me that the primary danger is a mistake in procedure and unfamiliarity with the equipment. I think in bike racing, the primary danger is a lack of skill. Skills take time and practice to develop. Time as in years, and lots of practice; think piano lessons as opposed to an operating manual for a microwave. Yes, there are topics of procedure you can go over in a class. What clothes to wear, how the equipment should be set up, the rules of racing, etc. But you aren't going to make up for lack of skills in an hour class.

    This is, by the way, why I brought up the dearth in youth racing. In most sports, basic skills are taught when the kid starts playing at age 10 and the kids literally grow into the sport. We don't have that in bike racing, so we need something else. Currently what we have is Category 5. We separate new racers from the more experienced racers so they can be sheltered from advanced racing speed, tactics, and maneuvers. It's not much, but it's what we have. Maybe it is time we do something about that.

    Off the top of my head, I think a more relevant parallel is a driver's license. Require a probationary period (say, a full season with a minimum number of races to make it count) where the races are very short (20 minutes max for a crit, for instance) and limited to an extremely small field; maybe even paced races where riders stay behind a pace rider until they get one or two hot laps. A learner's permit for bike racing, basically. To target skill deficiencies, you need to lessen the cognitive burden on the riders and only increase the burden as their skills progress. This means lots of short races and small fields over a relatively long period of practice time. Put a test at beginning and end like we do with the drivers license to make sure people actually gained the skills they claim. A written test will suffice for procedural issues.

    But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the primary concern is simply mistakes in procedure. I'm not sure we have the information to know. But, if we are going to make a barrier to entry to increase skills and increase safety, make it big and make it effective so the riders see it as an accomplishment rather than a burden. Make it so that "I catted up to Cat 4" means the rider raced a full season and earned an unrestricted license to race. It becomes a rite of passage rather than a handful of races to get through as quickly as possible.
    Last edited by Brian Ratliff; 04-10-14 at 11:00 PM.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  25. #25
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