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Interbike Day 1: Wading into a foreign land

Posted by on September 23rd, 2009 at 12:12 am

Yes folks, this is the scene just
steps from the entrance to America’s
premiere bicycle trade show.
(Photos © Elly Blue)

I just finished my first day at North America’s biggest bicycle trade show. Interbike has something like a thousand exhibitors and 20,000 attendees from all over the world. Below are photos and thoughts from my first day on the ground at the Outdoor Demo.

But before I get to that… What’s with having America’s premier bike industry event in Las Vegas? It’s a terrible place to ride a bike.

I realized this immediately upon exiting the airport on my trusty Brompton (yes, you warned me — but I had no idea it was like this). I’ll spare you the gorey details, but suffice it to say, these photos of my ride to the Sands Convention Center only start to do it justice.

Outdoor Demo traffic: chaotic and dusty,
yet strangely exciting.

The point was further driven home as soon as I arrived at the event’s Outdoor Demo, held in a very dusty place called Bootleg Canyon (several miles west of the strip). The Demo is a chance for shop employees, buyers, and the media to take next year’s bikes for a test ride. There were paved pathways, gravel roads, and a network of singletrack trails to test mountain bikes.

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It was a big, cheerful traffic jam out on the pathways. All in the same, narrow space, people test rode macho-looking full-suspension bikes, walked from booth to booth, stood around and chatted, and stopped suddenly to take photos.

Amidst this cacophony of test-rides there was also an exhibition going on.

A pair of Interbike’s fabled “booth girls”.
It was great to see Portland company Chris King with a packed booth.

The guys at Civia were working hard to promote their Loring, described to me as a “farmers market bike.” It has all the things you need in a bike — spacious racks and fenders (both made of bamboo), chainguard, a u-lock holster, and even the widget with springs that keeps your steering stable with a heavy load up front.

I liked this one, a lot. The price ($1,395 for the 9-speed version) seemed a bit steep, but I guess it’s a value when thinking of it as a car replacement.

The Loring is available with a step-through frame for shorties like me.

Dahon has a new line of commuter folding bikes called the “Midtown Minis”. They don’t fold up very small (see below) or very easily (you need a tool) but have a top tube that rides and looks more like a conventional road bike.

There were several e-bike companies at Outdoor Demo. Unfortunately, there never was anyone at the only booth that had a product that didn’t look like a space-aged moped.

Mark Kohr and his Donkeyboxx
at the Xtracycle tent.

It was a real breath of fresh air to find the Xtracycle airstream trailer, complete with solar panel, laid back vibe, and the soon to be released (they should be shipping around October 1) new Peapod kids seat that we wrote about last month.

Xtracycles are so ubiquitous around Portland that it was neat to finally meet some of the folks behind the bikes (there are only four of them making it all happen). They had a friend in tow, Mark Kohr, who was debuting his new invention, the Donkeyboxx, his low-cost, light-weight, Xtracycle specific response to the bike bucket — filled, in this case, with ice, beer, and a watermelon.

Besides being completely overwhelming, the next couple of days should yield a better sense for how the bike industry is (or isn’t) wooing customers who ride bikes for transportation. Or more to the point, how the manufacturers are wooing the shop buyers who are here to pick out their stock for next year.

But whether it’s bikes for sport or transportation, Interbike is about selling stuff in large quantities — and Vegas does seem to be an excellent place for that.

Browse more photos and notes from my day at the Outdoor Demo here.

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  • Jonathan Maus September 23, 2009 at 12:14 am

    New blog post: Interbike Day 1: Wading into a foreign land http://bit.ly/43guwe

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  • Rick Tillery September 23, 2009 at 12:27 am

    Great recap for those of us not in Vegas RT @BikePortland: New blog post: Interbike Day 1: Wading into a foreign land http://bit.ly/43guwe

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  • Cycle Blogs September 23, 2009 at 1:32 am

    Bike Portland: Interbike Day 1: Wading into a foreign land:
    Yes folks, this is the scene just ste.. http://bit.ly/RiI7V

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  • 3-speeder September 23, 2009 at 5:24 am

    Elly – Great report. It is very interesting to learn of Las Vegas’s bike-hostile traffic environment. And I appreciate your inferences of the hypocricy of such a major bike event choosing such a city to be their host.

    If Interbike is earnestly trying to influence Las Vegas to improve its bike infrastructure, I’d like to know that and would gladly apologize for my ‘hypocricy’ comment above.

    The availability of this sort of journalistic treatment of a bicycle-unfriendly environment which is all-too-commonly accepted by the general public is one of the main reasons I’m an avid BikePortland reader. Keep it up!!

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  • joel September 23, 2009 at 6:16 am

    interbike has been in vegas since, what, the late 80s? early 90s? you can draw your conclusions from that as to how much influence this one piddly convention (of the umpteen kazillion held in vegas every year) has had on vegas’ bike infrastructure over the last 20 years. the thing to remember is that interbike (mostly) isnt about bikes – its about *selling* bikes – and that, historically, has had little to do with bike infrastructure, whether that be in the city that should not be, or anywhere else.

    vegas is a seething pit of hell. good luck, elly.

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  • Todd September 23, 2009 at 6:22 am

    As a regular visitor to places off of the strip in Vegas (family in Henderson) I can attest to the challenging road designs in Vegas. I’m sure the roads would represent what traffic engineers feel is the ideal design for cars; residential streets 4+ lanes wide with 45 mph speed limits. But, from a walking and riding perspective they are quite dangerous. So much so that in the mornings nearly every intersection for what seems like a mile around every school a crosswalk guardian or two is on duty to help ensure the safe passage of kids to the schools. A very impressive feat that the schools pull of this level of volunteer effort but also a reflection of how little the DOT folks have taken into account walkers and bikers.

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  • Vance Longwell September 23, 2009 at 6:38 am

    Good work E. I’m especially pleased to learn that the lack of suspension at either end of my MTB is not macho!

    I was really stoked to see you get to go to this. I’m particularly interested in your take as a newcomer to the event. I further appreciate that some one of your demographic is there checking it out too.

    To me, your experiences there are a litmus for measuring penetration of the, ‘movement’,. I’d be most interested in learning about vendor’s reaction to you. I mean, are you feeling included? Do you feel any intimidation, or do you feel pretty free to kick tires, and ask questions?

    Forget ‘Vegas is a poor town for riding for a sec, what’s the over-all vibe amongst vendors? Contrasted against the fairly frenzied feel of things here, is there any excitement, any buzz? Can you tell by just looking around down there, that the region north of them is going bike-nuts?

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  • Seager September 23, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Could you ask the Xtracycle guys to make an adapter so we can use Cantilever brakes? They always ignore my e-mails, and I hate having to use a Travel Agent with my drop bars.

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  • thefuture September 23, 2009 at 7:06 am

    Interbike Portland 2010?

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  • Justin September 23, 2009 at 7:08 am

    You tried to ride a bike in Vegas?!

    It’s like some kind of performance piece.

    Get it, performance?

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  • Duncan September 23, 2009 at 7:21 am

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn29DvMITu4

    because justin said performance…

    Wow riding in Vegas- I hate driving a car there everyone is crazy on the road in Vegas. Kudos to you.

    Hey how bout some carbon eye candy for the rest of us? Please?

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  • Tankagnolo Bob September 23, 2009 at 7:35 am

    I love Interbike, the whole insane, super hyper event. That it takes place in a bike hell, Vegas is even better. I was the third one on the bus to the outdoor demos both days, had all my meals, beer, music, riding, watching crazies do jumps, and more food and beer, was most enjoyable. Even the gambling was free and you always won something, for me, a mini tool.

    The scene indoors, folks making multi million dollar deals next to a booth with some small start up, selling electric green inner tubes. Every imaginable idea being put out there. Old hippies, neo-hippies and businessmen from around the world with lap tops and crackberries.

    As for the city. A gambled one quarter as I went back to my room each eve, having spent the day at Interbike. Never did dig Vegas that much !!

    Stayed in the crap dorms at Circus Circus, but had breakfast at the Winn, then off to the event, all else cost nothing !! But for sure, don’t road bike in Vegas, though a cycling paradise compared to Hollywood FLORIDA !

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  • amos September 23, 2009 at 7:43 am

    I love the picture of the bike parking at Interbike. I mean, can’t we even pretend we care? Great report, Elly. Looking forward to the rest of the show.

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  • [...] from my experience the more you work in the bike industry the less time you actually spend riding. Bike Portland sent an intrepid reporter, Elly Blue, to cover the show armed with a Brompton folding bike and wrote a humorous post about surviving Vegas and how [...]

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  • ian September 23, 2009 at 8:38 am

    There are TWO reasons that interbike is in vegas. It was in Anaheim until the mid 90s.
    Main reason is Beds. only a few convention centers have enough beds to cover over 25k people.
    Second reason is every year they poll dealers, and for many dealers this is there only “vacation”, the majority want to stay in vegas.
    Portland would need to build 15k beds to even bid for Interbike.

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  • Elly Blue September 23, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Taking notes from you all. I’ll try to answer all your questions and more today.

    And btw Amos, I was a bit hasty to assume a railing by a service door was the only bike parking at the Sands — it’s the only *outdoor* parking I saw, but there’s a big indoor valet parking area in the convention. And a lot of parking garages here seem to have well-used bike racks inside.

    I’ll stop reporting on what it’s like to ride in Vegas after this (bad, bad, bad!) but it was nice to see more bikes on the road this morning, all convention-goers. Two brave souls were riding vehicularly, merging with traffic — yikes! Most of us stuck to the sidewalks, which aren’t well used by foot traffic here.

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  • Paul Tay September 23, 2009 at 9:25 am

    The GREAT American Bike Industry is mostly a wasteland, just like Vegas.

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  • Adventure Cycling September 23, 2009 at 9:21 am

    RT @bikeportland: New blog post: Interbike Day 1: Wading into a foreign land http://bit.ly/43guwe

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  • Barbara Zucker September 23, 2009 at 9:38 am

    For Home Buyers BikePortland.org » Blog Archive » Interbike Day 1: Wading into a … http://bit.ly/3956KV

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  • Joe September 23, 2009 at 10:40 am

    I lived and biked Vegas for 4 years. its
    just a wild place.. becareful! that strip
    can be ” car free ” wow! think of that.

    Joe

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  • Joe September 23, 2009 at 10:43 am

    #6 word :)

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  • Donna September 23, 2009 at 10:43 am

    Ian’s right. Even if you could convince dealers and shop owners that they’d have more fun in Portland, there’s no venue in the US besides Vegas that’s got enough space for Interbike. Sad but true.

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  • Corey September 23, 2009 at 11:05 am

    When I was in my early 20s and had an industry job for a year or two in the late 90s a half week long all-expenses paid trip to Vegas was the greatest thing in the world. All the chain lube samples, stickers and pro-deals I could score on gear I really didn’t need was just a bonus for a few 14 hour days. That’s why Interbike is in Vegas.

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  • Spencer Boomhower September 23, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Maybe San Francisco would be an option. Great bike city, and the Game Developers Conference – held at the Moscone center – gets something like 18,000 attendees. For the off-road segment they could head out to Marin.

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  • Donna September 23, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Spencer – I’m pretty sure having a large convention in San Francisco, CA vs. Las Vegas, NV means a rather hefty tax increase. They’ve also just renewed their contract with The Sands until 2012.

    And in the end – like it or not – it’s where the vast majority of people who work in the industry want it to be:

    http://www.tradeshowweek.com/article/CA6576243.html

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  • fredlf September 23, 2009 at 11:53 am

    Coincidentally, just got back from a family gathering in Vegas. It’s one of the most car-centric places I’ve ever seen. Walking from our hotel to the store or restaurant made me feel like a combination between an escaped felon and a homeless lunatic. It’s just not done, you’re crazy to try and obviously suspicious for attempting it. Yuck.

    What a relief to get back to Portland’s human scale (after sitting in the suburban traffic jam on I-5, of course).

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  • Corey September 23, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    If it were to move it would more likely move someplace with easier access from both coasts. As it is the Vegas location is much friendlier for some of the other big bike hubs like Utah and Colorado.

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  • Bahueh September 23, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Please don’t forget Vegas is in the middle of a desert…and msot folks wont’ be riding in that heat…

    Interbike is about selling bikes. period….through promotions, sex, beer, or bright lights…it actually seems perfect for Vegas.

    The weather is reliable for the outdoor demo…and the night life is what the industry wants it to be. Coming in and complaining about it with a Portland lens is rather ridiculous…

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  • William Linton September 23, 2009 at 11:33 am

    BikePortland.org » Blog Archive » Interbike Day 1: Wading into a …: Besides being complete.. http://bit.ly/7GfkO http://bit.ly/LO8MJ

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  • maxadders September 23, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Vegas sounds like the perfect city to have its mind changed by a wackily-dressed harpist drinking “fancy tea”. Failing that, we could use mimes. Or white tigers on tiny bicycles.

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  • Brad September 23, 2009 at 1:17 pm

    A few points:

    First, this is an industry trade show and not a bicycle transportation advocacy conference. This is capitalism pure and simple.

    Secondly, Vegas has large convention halls, loads of cheap hotel options, and any kind of “entertainment” you could want. Somehow, I don’t think most bike industry types are going to be much impressed with The Sprockettes, a Zoo Bomb, vegan burrito carts, or some “Dress Like Something Ridiculous” ride and bike parade.

    Next, if you have ever attended anything like this then you know it is a non-stop 12-14 hour day of work, meetings with sales reps, and deal making. You have three days to set your merchandise lineup for the next 12 months. Then, there is also some wining and dining after the show closes for the day – not much time for riding.

    Then consider that Las Vegas is easily accessible (often non-stop) from just about anywhere on the planet, has an army of union labor experienced in tradeshow set-up and tear down, and that many firms specializing in booth design and fabrication are located there, why wouldn’t you have your annual soiree in Sin City? It makes economic sense.

    Lastly, this is five days (counting the demos outside of town) out of the year. Should Las Vegas ( a town in serious economic crisis and the worst housing market in America) be spending tens of millions on bike infrastructure just so Elly and few other visitors have “nice” rides for the short duration of Interbike? Following that logic, Portland should pony up to build a full naval base on Waterfront Park since we have warships tied up downtown for three or four days during the Rose Festival.

    I apologize if this comes off as condescending and harsh but bikes are big business and that is the focus of Interbike. I also hope that Elly does not waste the opportunity to inform BikePortland readers about products that could enhance their biking experience and focusing on local infrastructure issues and the “scene”. No doubt there are great new products on display.

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  • steve September 23, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Perfectly said Brad. Perhaps Jonathan should have sent you!

    Or better yet, solicited freelance pieces from some of the numerous locals who are actually in the industry (getting laid off from a local retailer due to incompetence doesn’t count!) and were going anyway.

    Think of the extra carbon savings if Elly had not flown all the way to Vegas!

    People who live in Vegas live in tract home/suburbia land and commute in to the city proper on massive highways. The city center was designed and built for the sole purpose of tourism. The entire town is essentially a large, purpose built amusement park. Critiquing the lack of bicycle infrastructure is for lack of a better word- ridiculous.

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  • steve September 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Since that was overly snarky..

    I will second someone else’s advice. Go check out Red Rock Canyon- http://www.redrockcanyonlv.org The place is fantastic and just outside of town.

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  • Opus the Poet September 23, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    So what was your problem with the Day6 recumbent with the Cyclone 500W mid drive? The Day6 is a popular bike without the assist, and the assist just makes the bike’s one major fault (it climbs like a slug) less noticeable.

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  • Spencer Boomhower September 23, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    The fact that the biggest bike industry show is being held in what appears to be a total hellhole for actual bike riding seems worthy of note, and could even be seen as emblematic of the American bike industry’s relative tone-deafness when it comes to transportation cycling. (Which is on my mind after I followed the AustinOnTwoWheels trackback above, which led to this link: http://austinontwowheels.org/2009/09/08/city-bikes-the-new-carbon-in-bike-industry/ )

    Somehow, I don’t think most bike industry types are going to be much impressed with The Sprockettes, a Zoo Bomb, vegan burrito carts, or some “Dress Like Something Ridiculous” ride and bike parade.

    Maybe they should be impressed! Considering those are some of the defining bikey characteristics of a city that just hit the 6.4% mark for bike commute mode share – the highest in the country: http://bikeportland.org/2009/09/23/us-census-portland-has-record-jump-in-bike-commuting/

    IMO, viewing this show through a Portland lens makes perfect sense here on BikePortland.

    Aren’t there any big-bike-industry-themed web sites that can cover the big-bike-industry angle? I can’t imagine there’s a dearth of information on shiny new products out there.

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  • Brad September 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    What industry tone deafness?

    There are more simply designed, fixed geared, rack festooned, upright riding position, motor assisted, and stylish bicycle options produced today than at any other time in history. Huge U.S. based makers Trek and Specialized are creating products and launching subsidiary brands focused on the coming wave of commute focused cycling. New startups are producing frames solely for non-competitive and non-sporting riders. Why? On a hunch? Corporations such as these do nothing on a hunch. They see an emerging consumer base and are eager to sell them bikes. Doesn’t your linked article back that very premise?

    Why cover Interbike if you are not going to cover the products of interest to the 6.4% and those “interested but concerned” that are thinking about riding? To reaffirm just how golly gosh darned super bikey we are in ol’ Stumptown?

    Back to the original topic, Vegas has the halls, hotels, labor, and air transportation connectivity to host such a large event. Portland’s bike vibe and ride up Burgerville windows do not trump solid logistics for convention planners.

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  • John Martin September 23, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    BikePortland.org » Blog Archive » Interbike Day 1: Wading into a … http://tinyurl.com/y9f77cd

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  • Zaphod September 23, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Vegas hurts my head. Sure it’s the only place with capacity, but it’s still torture.

    It would be excellent to hear about any promising new designs for cargo & commute. If I want the skinny on carbon fiber (or is it crabon) and tech, there’s velonews for road, BIKE for dirt.

    Oh, and Seager (#5), I hear you but a vastly superior option is getting disc brakes. Reliability, power, modulation… all good.

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  • ian September 24, 2009 at 9:32 am

    As i said before, the main reason is beds. But there another big not mentioned above.
    Besides access for attendees, there is access for semi trucks bringing in Thousands of massive crates full of trade show booths. If Portland had enough beds for 25,000 people, then they need to fill those beds the rest of the year. If they had trade shows that size all year, we would have hundreds, read that HUNDREDS of semi trucks pulling in and out of the convention center for three days before and three days after every show.

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  • Spencer Boomhower September 24, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Brad #30,

    Absolutely, the industry is coming around to offering transportation cycling options. Though it’s apparently still a strange and new thing for them (which is what I took away from that article). Whereas the bike-as-everyday-vehicle is more old news here in Portland than it is anywhere else in the country.

    When Elly – who is so thoroughly immersed in this aspect of Portland biking – goes to this trade show and finds it striking and noteworthy that it’s being held in a place that is so unfriendly to bikes, I respect that point of view, and I want to read about it.

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  • Pat Franz September 26, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    I’ve been going to Interbike since it was in Anaheim. The Sands is the right sized convention center, but other than that, I have to agree it’s in the wrong town for cycling.

    I used to take a travel bike and a trailer and ride from the airport. While Las Vegas is totally a car town, I got by OK. I found the auto drivers to be reasonably respectful, and rather shocked, I think. We got along. I learned to avoid the multilane left turns, and I was fine.

    The bellhops at the Venetian were always totally fine with checking my bike and trailer. I even walked things through the hotel, and up and down the elevators one time when I camped out at a friends suite there. I’m sure security saw me riding down the hall (the halls are loooong there, and I was tired) but they didn’t say anything.

    That said, I don’t bring the bike anymore. I find Las Vegas a soul draining town, and riding there only added to that. I would love to see Interbike almost anywhere else. There was a movement a few years ago to move it to Denver, but Interbike management was dead set against it.

    So Interbike is just this weird few days of my life every year, totally disconnected from real life and real cycling. Not a fun thing, just a have to do thing, like taking out the trash in the rain.

    –Pat

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  • Biking to the airport | Taking the Lane July 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

    [...] or eleven on a multi-use path — but it’s a pleasant one overall. I’ve written elsewhere about my very different experience biking only three miles into town from the Las Vegas [...]

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