Tour de France Stage 16 Preview

Did you spend the rest day staring at tea leaves to see if you could spot a likeness of Tadej Pogačar or Jonas Vingegaard or staring at clouds to see their shape might give us a clue? Today the pair are forcibly separated by regulation with this short, sharp time trial.

The Route: just 22.4km but 640m of vertical gain. After a flat start there’s a left turn onto the first climb which is 1.6km at an average of 8% but with a soft start and finish it’s much steeper in the middle and with some very tight hairpins which if taken aggressively – crowds permitting – can save time, although at the cost of effort of course, it’s a tougher climb than the profile suggests.

Then comes the descent back down to Sallanches, it’s very fast and riders can save time knowing the course or having radio tips, which corner might need a dab of the brakes, which line to take as there are some sunken inspection covers and off camber bends. Small details but you can take seconds this way too.

There’s a flat section around Sallanches to the foot of the Domancy climb, it’s chance for heavier riders to take time but they’ll know what’s coming.

Next is the Domancy climb, 2.9km long – aka the “Route Bernard Hinault” as the road has been renamed in tribute to “The Badger” and his 1980 World Championships road race. If this section is 8.9% on average it’s often 10-12% with irregular ramps and hairpins with steep apexes, a light rider can attack them.

Atop the Domancy climb is the left turn onto the main road to Combloux. It’s a steady drag, the slope varies but gradually and is typically 5% for most of the way. This is a chance for the powerful riders to up the pace, get into a tuck and use aerodynamics.

Will anyone do a bike change? The Domancy section is steep enough to make a rider long for their lightest bike but the section after can still suit a TT bike. It feels like its a TT course but Pogačar was spotted doing a bike change during yesterday’s rest day ride.

The Contenders: Pogačar or Vingegaard? Pogačar’s taken a flat time trial before, Vingegaard was on course to win the TT last year but sat up to gift it to his team mate Wout van Aert so both can beat the TT specialists at their own game, and here’s a hard to course that suits them with two sharp climbs. In 1989 it was hard to pick between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon but in the words of LeMond “anything is possible, if he has bad day and I have good day…” so it could come down to who gets out of bed on the right side, metaphorically at least. One detail though was the way Vingegaard closed down Pogačar on the climb to Le Bettex on Sunday, he was onto him right away and comfortably so.

As for the others, Van Aert is likely to find this course too hilly, he’d need more roads in the valley rather than the climbs to build up a lead. Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos) is going well but how to beat the top two? Mathias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) had a great Tour de Suisse but his form’s been more inconsistent of late with back issues and he’s not been saving himself for today either.

Vingegaard, Pogačar
Rodriguez, Van Aert, A Yates

Weather: warm and sunny, 33°C.

TV: the first rider is off soon after 1.00pm and the last rider is due in at 5.30pm CEST.

99 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 16 Preview”

  1. Pogacar definitely flags in the heat. The last forecast that I looked at said 50% humidity so that could be in his favour. His time trialling muscles have probably had a lot of conditioning during wrist recovery. He really needs to take 11 seconds but even with the foregoing I have no idea how he will perform on the day.

    • Which day this tour has he shown any signs of struggling with the heat? Maybe he spent the weeks injured heat training in a sauna because I haven’t seen any evidence of previous issues compared to Vingegaard.

      • It’s only an impression of course but the last two days in the mountains he was dowsing himself with water a lot and he was unable to shake Vingegaard.

    • It’s happened before in longer stages, eg the Granon. Today’s so short he should be able to start cold and if he heats up, still not go too far.

      I keep wanting to do a blog post on cooling as it’s become a big issue for teams and riders and something that didn’t happen a few years ago much, ice was nice but now it’s as standard as water and there are all sorts of other things at work too.

      • On the recent Rich Roll podcast Cam Wurf said that heat acclimation is one of the biggest changes in endurance sport in the last few years. He puts part of it down to the Tokyo Olympics and the prep some athletes did for that.

  2. And to think how many of us, me included, felt this tour was going to turn into a slightly disappointing procession, less than two weeks ago. It’s been brilliant. I imagine that whatever the result today, this yellow jersey battle will continue to dazzle until Saturday evening.

  3. “I’m so very excited for the Stage 16 ITT!”, said everyone, everywhere, for the first time in recorded human history.

    Chapeau to Prudhomme, Gouvenou, and ASO for producing what has so far been an electrifying edition of this race. Let’s hope the third and final act doesn’t disappoint.

    • TTs are great, and at any rate, an indispensable part of the show. I’m generally always excited about them, because they always shake the GC. And I’ll say it again: they were more fun and unpredictable when riders didn’t have cyclocomputers and data to inform their pacing, and that organisers should try, as in track pursuit racing, to have them banned at least once for one TT, and see what happens. I’ll also say that long TTs are also more unpredictable, and that the gaps they create tend to stimulate bigger attacks on the mountains.

  4. I honestly have no clue who to pick between the top two. Vingegaard has been great at pacing his effort and not going in the red. Pogacar is so explosive and could really blast up the Dormancy. Good luck to both.

  5. I know this is not going to be a popular viewpoint but I am finding the whole race dull. There is no excitement you can easily predict what is going to happen every day, two very closely matched riders are riding to their maximum not able to drop the other. Scraping for the odd bonus second does not equate to great racing. The sense of unpredictability that goes with great sporting occasions is missing. Sterile excellence might be fascinating from a technical viewpoint but does not make for great viewing, there needs to be an element of human fallibility for that. For what it is worth I think Jonas Vingegaard will win by the odd second

    • Perhaps the only downside to a tight race is it makes a rider too careful… Vingegaard looked totally untroubled by Pogacar’s accelerations Sunday yet he chose not to try a serious dig himself. It all becomes a bit of a chess stalemate. (Maybe if Pogacar was in yellow and Vingegaard had to take a few risks it’d be a 5-star race).

      • I find the close battle for yellow absolutely tantalizing. I feel both riders are in danger of losing the tour at any point, so there is a constant sense of uncertainty that’s keeping me on the edge of my seat. They’ve been dropping each other, clawing back the distance, fighting for bonus seconds, trying different team tactics and so on, so I wouldn’t say there have not been any fireworks yet.

        Maybe it’s going to be close until it suddently isn’t. But so far it’s been really interesting and exciting to watch for me.

        I also love the way both riders are carrying themselves.

        • +1 for this viewpoint – much more exciting to watch than the Sky dominance of the Froome years, the two principles’ teams are closely matched with the strength added by UAE over last year and the decreased influence (down to the course or form?) of WVA. I think its most likely neither Pog or Vin lands a knockout blow today, but that will make the remaining two mountain stages must sees… Final thought – props to the course design this year for keeping it exciting, most mountain stages have seen good battles for the win on the day and GC.

      • You would imagine that after today there is going to be a bigger gap between them. If it’s under a min then it really sets up the last week for some all out attacking racing.

          • Pogacar even said after today’s TT that if it rains tomorrow, he’ll make the race interesting. Which sounds… bold. He probably just tries to summon the spirit of his mythical power from the past, but the Roselend descent is not slow and then there are the hairpins + Loze.

          • “his mythical power from the past”
            This folks her get so ridiculous every Tour de Fr*ck, it’s unbelievable.
            Amstel, P-N, Fleche, Vlaanderen winner is now all of a sudden man from the past cause he might lose one race to Danish Froome?

    • I’m puzzled by this… it seems cycling fans are hard to please! What would make for an exciting GC race if not this? On stages 5 and 6 we did see big attacks, not just for bonus seconds, resulting in relatively big time gaps (and made more interesting and unusual because of the see-sawing, ie JV lands a huge blow one day, TP strikes back the next). Usually if one rider lands such a huge blow then it can effectively end the GC fight (eg Froome 2013? Probably better examples than this), and then we have loads of comments saying “the tour is already over, how boring!”.

      Grand Tours almost always throw up surprises and this Tour is so delicately poised that I’m really excited to see how it unfolds. Today and tomorrow should be huge

      • I’m pretty puzzled by this too. We’ve got 2 great riders going toe to toe and they’re pretty much inseparable. They’re having to squabble over everything and still might have to when the mountains have finished! All sports are reliant on there being a contest and here we have one. To see how dull this race could’ve been you only have to take one of the big two off the leaderboard. The one left would be miles ahead and this would’ve been over as a contest long ago. You could say there’d be more action in the break and more variety of big name riders contesting stage wins if there was a big gap at the top but that would be secondary almost fake action. I’ll take this over watching Adam Yates and David Gaudu winning consolation stages.

        Anyway I’ll go for WVA to finally get his stage today.

    • Each to their own, it’s a matter of taste.

      Sunday’s finish in Le Bettex was more neutral but prior to that the pair have been trading big attacks. Vingegaard’s move on the Marie Blanque and again the next day on the Tourmalet, Pogačar’s response on Cambasque. For me it’s different to, say, last year’s Giro when Hindley, Carapaz and Landa hardly made moves until the final mountain stage for fear of being countered.

      1989 would be my reference, that was so good because the lead changed often but all with a third rider getting closer and closer, so ideally the yellow jersey would be going back and forth but never out of reach going into Saturday’s stage in the Vosges. Back then by the end of the race when the race had left the Alps the consensus was Fignon had won, a bit like Roglič before La Planche in 2020, the twist on the Champs Elysées at the end was icing on the cake. But there’s still plenty to come this week, we’ll see.

      • So far there has not been a stage that sticks in the mind, the stage to the Granon last year was far more memorable and interesting even if didnt get “a stage for the ages” rating. For all the hype there has been nothing remotely like Stage 9 in 2017 which Rigobert Uran won a photo finish from a sprint despite having a broken mech It was emotionally draining just to watch never mind ride. There is a tendency in contemporary sport to hype up supposed “excellence” but this is most often confected media excitement eg Formula 1 and much football. The best sporting moments (triumph & tragedy) are not created by administrators but by interaction between (often flawed) competitors. To reference the stage mentioned before can anyone imagine the bionic riders, whose emotions are as restricted as their diets, in the current race collapsing in tears of emotional exhaustion like Warren Barguil did after losing out to Rigobert Uran?

        • Interesting discussion. I sort of see your point, but it’s a matter of interpretation. (As anything is.) So far, I am inclined to call the race the most rhrilling I have ever seen, frankly, but it can lead to oversaturation.

          Perhaps you are a bit tired of the P-V rivalry, like you could have been when Barcelona with Messi and Madrid with the dull bodybuilder traded blows ten times a year, the clash of footballing creme de la creme superpowers bringing boredom and irrelevance of matches supposed to mean a thing, but overhyped to empty fatuity.

          Still, there is an interesting dynamic to this year’s race; or the Pogacar – Vingegaard rivalry as a whole, I’d say. Pogacar entered the scene as a little cannibal, devouring many parcours, many types of races by different approaches. Vingegaard seemed to be a one-trick pony, a new Froome, losing time on descents etc. (Ventoux stage.) But Vingegaard works on himself and his progress is pretty fascinating. I’d say nowadays he is the better descender and probably tt-ist and he clearly works on his finishing skills.

          • Interesting. Both Froome and Jonas managed to became a better defender.

            That said, the Ventoux decent was more down to the chasers had more fire power.

          • Yes, Froome also worked on his weaknesses; but Vingegaard is imho clearly the better descender now and after today’s stage there is little doubt he is a top notch time-trialist. He also grows mentally.

        • Yes I haven’t followed every stage but I’m not aware of any meaningful crosswind ambushes, rain-soaked treacherous descents, or hell-of-the-north-style carnage.

    • I thought the first week was really exciting, with Vingegaard dropping Pogacar on Marie-Blanque and Pogacar hitting back the next day. If anything, I would have predicted those days to be the other way around. Since Puy-de-Dome they have been more evenly matched, with Pogacar taking a few seconds with his uphill sprints. But it was again a little differenct on Joux-Plane, where Vingegaard caught up with him after a 2 km chase.
      The only thing missing in the second week was a hard Vingegaard counterpunch, he hasn’t yet dared to try that. Hopefully we get something this week. But so far, I have found it very entertaining.

    • Oh yeah, you miss the times when some juiced dude got 8 minutes on weekend one and we all were excited if someone manged to get 2 minutes back until Paris?

    • As far as these two are concerned, the bounce seconds at the top of mountains really discourages aggressive racing. Pog is definitely waiting for those seconds while Joan’s weary about them least Pog takes the sprint.

  6. I can’t really agree, JC. The battle for yellow has been close and exciting – and still is, while the rest struggling for the 3 – 10 positions in the wake of Vingegaard and Pogacar has been unpredictable too
    with riders looking strong one day (Pidcock, S Yates, Hindley, Bilbao…) then losing time the next, while others (Gaudu, Martin …) have been fighting back in after poor stages.

    Could Kuss be a surprise third today when free to ride for himself?

    It’s a vintage edition for this fan.

  7. I started the rest day as I always do — forgetting it was a rest day until I re-read your preview of the day before, realising the grim void of a day opening up before me …

    Thanks so much for all your work!

  8. Given van Aert called his rest day recce of today’s TT course “worst ride of my life” on Strava he might not be a great pick! Could be bluffing of course.

  9. The tour has been fascinating. Easy watching harder being a competitor. Still more to play out. TTs are good for going to watch as you see all the riders, less of a TV spectacle though. What are people views on the coverage? I feel that with all the latest technology they could present more data telling the viewer every riders relative position. I know this is not easy put you could caveat this info if for whatever reason the riders position is a non confirmed.

    • If you look at the way MTB is covered it’s chalk and cheese. They only have a couple of fixed timing points but they show real time gaps between the riders throughout the lap. I don’t know what technology they use but surely it could be also be used in a TT, especially one so short.

    • shows the real-time positions of all groups and/or your selected riders on the road. I keep it open on my phone while watching on tv. I keep wondering why the commentators do not seem to use it, it gives lots of info not seen on tv pictures.

      • The commentators in Bulgaria absolutely have it open, listen to the audio tour, and have a bunch of tabs with stats from old races, records and so on on hand as well. Usually it’s a journalist and an ex-rider team. The journalist is responsible for stats and all kinds of info, and the ex-pro is commenting on the tactics and telling stories from behind the scenes and helps read the race. They also answer viewer questions from the show’s Facebook page. It’s coverage dense with info and insight, but also friendly to newbie viewers. When I try to switch to English language coverage, it inevitably feels boring and shallow in terms of analysis. I constantly rave about the Bulgarian coverage.

  10. Apparently Vingegaard has been questioned about the increasing speeds on the big climbs.

    His reply was interesting:

    “I fully understand all the questions we get about it, the only thing I can say is I am not taking anything. To be honest, I am happy there is a bit of scepticism about it. We are going faster, quicker than back then, maybe. And also the food, material, training, everything is different.”

    Let’s hope we are not going into old territory, because the race is enthralling, the best that I can remember, and I go back a long way.

    • New generation. Better training. More meticulous about their equipment (riders in the past were so blase). Better sleep. Better pillows. Better mattresses. They drink pineapple juice – wait, sorry, they’ve stopped drinking pineapple juice. They just want it more.


  11. I would love someone other than TP or JV win today’s stage.

    Is Ion Izagirre too much of a curveball? He was mighty impressive on stage 12 and has won a few TTs in his time.

    • If this was the Vuelta Asturias or something else, why not but at the Tour one stage win for him is plenty, it’s hard to see how he gets ahead. But as an outside pick, he’s a decent one. Kwiatkowski’s in form but we don’t know if he’ll do the course at 100%. Simon Yates has to go all out and can win TTs too, I think he’ll be close as well… but probably beaten for the win.

      Also, and just for general info, not trying to pour more cold water, it seems we won’t get one of those weather-change TTs where some early starters get helpful weather before things turn nasty.

  12. A friend of mine sees Küng taking it. We have not seen him since the start. Is he saving energy for today? Or just no legs?

    I would have tipped wva if he had not been so active in the last days.

  13. For those who don’t find this years edition exicting (i am so far) i’d be curious to know which recent editions they did and why?

    For me the Froome Giro race overall wasn’t that exciting but then he did something spectacular. Some of the recent Veultas where Tom D was knocking on the door i found gripping because i wasn’t sure if he could pull off the result and the course didn’t suit.

    The TT reversal of Rog by Pog in TDF shocking but not a vintage edition, Tao in the Giro quite exicting but again perhaps because he was an underdog. I’m enjoying the Jumbo UAE battle because they are so closely matched that there isn’t a clear favourite.

  14. There can’t be many things as futile in professional sport, or indeed life, as watching back markers/domestiques half heartedly tiptoeing round a time trial course as slowly as they can possibly get away with. I would propose restricting time trials to the top 15-20 on GC and anyone else who feels like they might want to try and win. The rest can take the time of the slowest rider and go off for a coffee ride.

    • And they could spice things up by letting any uninterested riders (who’d be given the time of the slowest rider) attempt the course on non-UCI sanctioned bikes: recumbents, tandems, quads, with fairing etc? Maybe less advantageous on a hilly course but it’d be fun to see what a fully-faired tandem or quad could achieve : )

      • The results currently showing on Pro Cycling Stats have the slowest rider, Alexis Renard, at 10.46 down and the time cut as 10.45 so does that mean Renard is out even though he’s not marked as OTL?

  15. Wow – what a stage…. ok, so how does this stand up – who had the better season:

    Rider 1 – TdF Yellow Jersey*, 2 smaller Stage Races (Criterium, Basque)
    Rider 2 – TdF 2nd GC*, Flanders, Amstel Gold, Fleche Wallone, Paris-Nice

    • Perhaps we should ask another question – if JV is the dominant GC rider of his generation, we should be pretty glad there is an all-rounder capable of challenging him and keeping the distance at less than two minutes rather than less then ten.

  16. Wow. That feels decisive but it will still be fun to see what UAE / Pog attempt to get back in contention as JV will now go into lockdown train mode. Pogacar is amazing yet it seems the lack of proper prep is catching up with him.

    • Not sure Pog can be blamed here: he put 1m 10s in to 3rd place / WVA over just 30 mins of TT.

      If you go back to when Pog took the win off of Roglic, he took 90 secs out of WVA – but over 55 mins. And 1m 10s out of Dumoulin.

      So his difference vs the closest others on today’s stage is greater.

      Hence this is simply a monster ride from JV. I think some people will raise eyebrows.

      • Agreed, also, I wonder if Pogacar is being penalised for having 2 peaks so far this season. He peaked for Flanders, and was he able to fully peak again for the Tour? Only he and his team knows the answer to this.

      • Agreed Greasy Wheel, except Vinnegaard was 8% quicker than 3rd place! That’s proportionately a bigger gap than say 60mins for 1st and 65mins for 3rd. One commentator rightly said, “on another planet”.

  17. Proper old school time gaps in both the TT and the GC. Almost like there was a flat 50km TT today. I’d wager there won’t be a TT at all next year..!

  18. I was expecting Vingegaard to put time into Pogacar but not by nearly that much. I’m not usually sceptical about cycling performances but seeing Vingegaard put over a minute and a half into Pogacar, who in turn put nearly a minute and a quarter into the rest of the field, did have me raising my eyebrows.

    • Was the rest of the field that strong, though? Pogacar was probably expected to distance the likes of Yates and Bilbao. And it’s not surprising to see a flying Vingegaard beating clearly struggling Pogacar quite emphaticaly. Vingegaard was stronger at the weekend, Pogacar is perhaps feeling the effects of problematic preparation.

      I don’t see a reason for such innuendo towards Vingegaard yet.

    • I think we need to relax on questioning Vingegaard’s form – he just beat the current Flanders’ champion. Pogacar is not invincible, and which other 2023 Monument winners are flying right now at the Tour?

      Remco isn’t here
      M VdP is here but definitely not on top form
      WVA just got destroyed by in the TT

      Pogacar also is recovering from broken bone, and has had flying form since April… clearly something has to give. I hope next year he targets the TdF, and then World’s plus the Race of the Falling Leaves.

      • I think this is a fair point. Of course, we’ll never know for sure (short of a report of a positive drug test for JV), but Pogacar definitely has more race miles in his legs at this point, and he’s STILL faster than all but one of the racers at the TdF.

  19. People made the exact same argument when Pog first crushed Roglic. Like yeah dude, it’s cycling, and more than that, it’s all high-level professional sport. If you think elite athletes aren’t taking whatever they think they can get away with – in addition, tbc, to their absurd natural talent, extreme dedication, etc – you’re deluding yourself. That’s in general, not just Vingegaard and/or Pogacar.

    Personally I strongly believe PEDs should just be legal for adults (and conversely make the penalties for providing them to minors extremely harsh – doping is generally rampant in youth sports bc testing is more lenient/nonexistent). Take it out of the shadows, make sure everyone is doing it under the supervision of medical professionals w/regular bloodwork being done.

    But until that blessed day arrives, we’ll be stuck with the endless guessing about who’s doing what and amateur sleuths dissecting power numbers and the like. Personally, I just enjoy it all for what it is, great performances created by talent, training, discipline, and almost certainly, chemistry.

    • I don’t think that argument stands up, nobody will legalise the use of drugs that are known to have serious side effects and many products that aren’t normally available to people unless critically ill.

      Plus if people want to cheat they will not take the approved dose of a banned substance, they will take much more only by then we won’t be able to test for it because the doper will say “it’s legal” if they test positive.

      We saw this when the UCI tried to bring in a haematocrit limit because it couldn’t test for EPO, riders would dope up to 50% but would go well beyond, knowing they could dilute values in time for the test, the whole thing was gamed to the max.

      More at

  20. The second coming is here… and Denmark finally has another Mr. 60% LOL.
    And the other guy is not far behind in the same boat IMHO.
    Anyway great battle of the doctors this year.
    Would be so much better if the first two weren’t though though.

    And Mr/Ms INRG, many thanks for your truly excellent blog, I come here religiously every day as it’s just about the best thing on the web.

  21. The 4.4 second gap per kilometre is the largest recorded apparently. Bigger gap than Armstrong etc achieved. I understand the Colnago TT bike is not much cop comparatively though. An incredible ride, not sure I can quite believe it but…

  22. Crazy stage. Is that one of the greatest time trials in history? Assume Boardman’s fastest speed prologue is up there, Anquetil, Lemond… Pogacar in 2020… but wow that was something special.

    Admittedly though like many here this was the first time I’ve seriously had to do a double take and mull over drugs in a long long time (call me naive but I felt and have believed the change since 2010 and biopassport / growth of anti doping movement with sponsors and garmin team etc).

  23. Great analysis of the TT on Dutch TV. Team JV just really did their homework here. Look at the lines Vingegaard takes – apparently this was all checked in March already, including decisions such as not to swap bikes. Vingegaard rides an unpainted bike (-150 g), performance coaches have checked road conditions on the day behind earlier riders, and my favorite detail – to reduce drag behind the rider they have a team car fully loaded with bikes behind Vingegaard. Not so for UAE. Finally, Pogi has a cold sore. May be nothing but may be his immune system is working just a tad harder leaving him slightly more fatigued. You can still ride a great TT (Evenepoel won the Giro TT with Covid) but maybe not your greatest.
    Anyway, he threatened fireworks for tomorrow’s stage so we’re in for another rollercoaster! Fantastic TdF!

  24. How sad and predictable that the old grumps on here would turn to doping innuendo. How do you even enjoy the sport? Or is that the point, to have something to grumble over in your old age. Too much whinging and not enough riding from this crew. JV says out loud that he was surprised by the watts he saw on his computer during the TT. Not something a doper would ever say. Get a grip people.

    • Exactly…. and how do any of us have any evidence to say he was doping? The average speed was 38kph, who knows if that is a dopers’ speed or not?

      Oh, he crushed Pogacar you say… well, Pogacar broke a bone two months ago and won Flanders 3 months ago… so it is virtually impossible to be at his best form. Oh, he crushed WVA you say? Well, JV weighs 132 lbs and WVA weighs 172 and this is a climbing stage….

      Nothing that anyone can say right now proves they were doping or not…. And being honest, who cares right now, just enjoy this battle for what it is. And, we all know Pogacar is going to fight and attack and do anything he can to get this back and i can’t wait for the rest of this race.

      Thank you Inrng for all of your patience with us, and your amazing writing to start all of our days.

  25. Jonas put about 22s into Van Aert, and 11s into Kung on the intermediate section – the downhill and *flat*. The skinny GC climber, who couldn’t TT a few years ago, crushing TT power houses even on the flats.

    And this is the 2nd time this year this team has had GC contenders put in amazing times in TTs. Roglic looked nothing special against Geraint Thomas in the Giro in the mountain stages before the TT, and even weak on one of them. Then absolutely crushes everyone on the (uphill) TT – including a clearly very on form Geraint (who himself put in an amazing performance).

    I’m sorry, but questions really need to be asked now.

    Especially of a team where most of the DS staff have history (and all of the main DS staff; Maassen the only one you could money on having avoided that history and having a chance of not losing your money).

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