Old School Throwback: 1997 DH World Champs

Feb 17, 2013
by Matt Wragg  
This week we go for a slightly different video, shamelessly stolen from Andy Waterman's Twitter feed. Rather than a film, we're going for a racing flashback - the 1997 World Championships at Chateu D'Oex in Switzerland. This clip has highlights of the top 20 men, with names that should be instantly familiar - like John Tomac, Cedric Gracia and, of course, Nico Vouilloz. For 20 minutes go back to a time when men were men, bikes were sketchy and the fastest man in the world wore lycra.



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176 Comments

  • 98 2
 It's just not the same without Rob Warner behind the mic
  • 23 1
 it sounds like football...
  • 15 61
flag parker455 (Feb 17, 2013 at 4:58) (Below Threshold)
 They go so slow!
  • 17 1
 i would really like to see a modern dh rider like sam hill going down that track and see what time he needs... .)
  • 4 0
 he had to ride
  • 4 0
 If you stick around for the results, he finished 30th!
  • 3 9
flag zenis (Feb 17, 2013 at 15:54) (Below Threshold)
 @freddy-b

u think it have sounded like football, u r wrong dude, in those years what ever u have watched on eurosport it was enjoyable, coz I think u have learned a lot from commentators and I was enjoying watching it.
  • 6 0
 zensis^^ freddy-b is right, it does sound like an association football commentator, which in not a bad thing.
  • 57 1
 Give me the best DH bike money can buy, with the blackbox tech and all that jazz, sent me back in time to that race, and i would still get my ass kicked
  • 31 0
 But u sure would blow everyone's mind
  • 5 17
flag docer (Feb 17, 2013 at 7:47) (Below Threshold)
 so would most of today's top racers Wink
  • 1 1
 I doubt they'd get their asses kicked but some of these guys were definitely fast back then too.
  • 28 0
 AAAAhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the year that I got into DH and religiously waited for sundays live coverage on eurosport as a frothing 15 year old, also recording it and watching it every day till the next round and then all of them during the off season only to of watched them so much they basically disintegrated :-(
  • 8 0
 Soooo nice to wake up and see this, it was my first World Championships!!!
One of the best one week periods of my life, beautiful town, great atmosphere, and lots of friends from South America.
It looks slow in the film but the top 15 elite men were going very very fast (remeber bikes 15 years ago), challenging course:

Cheers
  • 1 0
 heavyp. I could not said it better my self i was tiny and remember looking at the bike thinking they were incredible. Loved this
  • 5 0
 Fuck it Eurosport wasTHE shit back in the 90s. It's so crap now. I remember seeing a helmet cam of a DH race back around then. And i thought it was the coolest thing ever. Unfortunately MTB wasnt big in Ireland back then and I never really followed up on it. Had brief flirtations but i didnt know where to do it or who to do it with and living in the back arse of nowhere BMX wasnt an option either. So just stuck with the GAA. I never forgot seeing that helmet cam though and 10 years late i finally got into MTB. Best decision ever but i do often wonder where id be now if i started when i saw it first. Thanks Eurosport.
  • 31 1
 It crazy how much the bikes have advanced
  • 5 1
 yea its crazy, im only 15 and watching world cup racing from the year I was born and comparing it to todays bikes, racing and technology is insane. MTB has come so far in such a short amount of time, i have no idea how much farther its going to go in the next 10-15 years.
  • 10 0
 I can't take my eyes off the short handlebars, the speed, the announcer, the forks...everything. Imagine 20 years from now, our kids will laugh at us and tell us how old-school we were...
  • 7 0
 I dunno, MTB technology is pretty similar to motox these days which is super advanced and a lot more research has been done to find the right geometries and spring rates, etc. I dont think the bikes will change hugely from now on. They will keep evolving but i dont think we'll ever look back at the current bikes the same way that we look at these now. Its like MotoGP, the bikes from the early 90s and before look so old school but then the ones in the last 20 years havent evolved a huge amount in comparison.
  • 2 0
 bikes have not changed that much in the last 15 years really...those guys had carbon fiber frames, disc brakes, 6''/7'' travel front and back...those bikes were high tech on every level and ...and lets not forget that the races (6min22sec) were much longer and the courses much tighter,,, the riders needed to pedal a lot more, hence the smaller and lighter bike used by racers...
  • 12 0
 Tomac did well on his Giant (cough... Intense M1). And around this time Eric Carter had an awesome Mongoose (cough, another Intense M1).

The M1 was so far ahead of the competition even the competition used them.
  • 2 0
 I think Leigh Donovan was also on a 'Mongoose' M1.
  • 1 1
 Was waiting for someone to point that out. I love intense
  • 1 0
 the Intense M1 and the Turner Burner DH where 2 of the most used DH frames back in those days .
  • 12 1
 These riders have balls. Nowadays, everyone needs a 4000$ downhill bike to ride these stuff. And look at the handlebars!!! WTF!?!?!
  • 7 0
 Those were really expensive cutting edge bikes back then. Some of the stuff you couldn't even buy, for pro teams only. DH was still not that mainstream in the MTB world, XC was still king so there were very few DH bikes out there, hence really expensive. Many of those bikes would trump the cost of many DH bikes now. The talent was undeniable however.
  • 11 0
 Nico...never unclipped, always pedaling, always going higher on every berm. Every other rider unclipped and he didn't a single time.
  • 1 4
 he unclipped once....impressive, but he was a doper so that must've helped a bit
  • 1 0
 Nico is at about 17min
  • 11 0
 Not only the bars...what about how high they all have their seatposts! N luvin the Lycra ;D
  • 1 0
 Yeah, that's the part that was getting me. And you could see as they did their runs that the seat had a big effect on their body positioning.
  • 8 0
 Holler if anyone wants any great stories from that week, I have more than a few. Palmers rental car, the local strip club, Lopes losing his shoe in race run while posting a fastest split time, Leigh Donovan breaking her leg in practice and visiting some swiss voodoo acupuncture lady and still racing to 8th place (her worst worlds finish), Seamus Mcgrath testing positive and getting shown the door at our hotel, Missy's dad telling me about the million dollar deal he's lining up for missile. 90's, dislocating my finger while looking at breitlings at the watch shop, always exciting flashbacks!
  • 4 0
 I'll just pull up the stationary and I'll pedal while you talk... Deal? Smile PB should do throw-back interviews and piece together the events and personalities of those races, just so we can all appreciate where we've come from. Smile
  • 7 0
 I randomly click a spot on the video to see what downhill racing used to be like.

Turns out I directly fall on 13:19, it's Cedric Gracia's race run.

Enjoy, everyone.
  • 1 0
 Ta. Tomac at 5.53, followed by Miles Rockwell
  • 1 0
 Did exactly the same thing and hit exactly the same time minus 2 seconds 0.o
  • 2 1
 Shows what a stud Cedric is - he comes across the line, looks and sees he is in second place and then he celebrates likes he just won.
  • 7 0
 Well he is 19 year old. Id be fkn happy with second!
  • 11 5
 I don't enjoy saying this, but Gwin today seems to be what Vouilloz was that time - just riding in a league of their own.
However, nice to see Germans (yes, plural!) in the top 10!
  • 2 0
 I know so many fast Germans, but they just don't cut it on the worlds circuit anymore. I'm gonna go ahead and blame the bad winter seasons here (I live in Germany)
  • 2 0
 That must be it =)
  • 2 0
 @KennyKillslt - have to agree with you there about the weather in this country :-( . Back home in Ireland I rode in every crap ... but here I just can't motivate myself sometimes to go out in another greeeey day. :-( Roll on Summer before I go insane !
  • 1 0
 I totally agree! Mud or snow rides should be fun, but I just cannot be bothered to go out and battle the winds only to come home disappointed and in physical pain from the air filling my lounges. The riding spots available in the off season don't even make me a better riders so eff that! I have a bad feeling about this summer's conditions as well.
  • 2 0
 So go to southern Europe for some bike holidays! Lake Garda, Finale Ligure or even Mallorca. Summer starts early in these places and lasts pretty long.
  • 1 0
 Thanks, but I ain't got the time. It's my final year of IB. Got exams all of May and plenty of other obligations / non bike trips starting next month.

I'm not complaining, its a pretty exciting/productive time in my life tup
  • 1 0
 I think there is a difference between Gwin and Vouilloz. Gwin dominates the World Cups. Vouilloz the World Champs. At World Cups also other riders have been able to win while all his years of dominance the World Champs. So before worlds there has a tension in the air: will Nico manage to win again. Now the question is, will Gwin manage again to win not? I know already the theme at the next worlds in Hafjell will be - This is a kind of new track for Gwin. Never won ist, never raced it and like ever, in training many spectators will not fully understand his strategy in the sessions, we he show not full speed at section where other seem to be very fast.
  • 1 0
 For example after #5 - 1998
—Rich Neare, reporting (and shooting) for The Mountain Zone said:
The entire top-five of the mens race has won a world cup round this season.

Wich is each round an other winner.
  • 5 0
 i am going back to lycra- ripped the crotch out of my third pair of expensive ass "MTB" shorts... these guys did it right... and i look good in skinsuits... suck it modern mountain biking!
  • 1 0
 The only reason I wear baggies is to fit some of the knee pads, and to have hip pads when going a bit faster - but I found a set that works great with lycra shorts. Now need to find some lycra shorts with hip pads - I have Dainese and TLD, but they not good on their own. I have no image issues when I frigging riding a bike in the woods.
  • 3 0
 i am looking for the same thing... i got a buddy who does clothing and i am talking to him about getting some made...
  • 5 0
 Its crazy to see how as the bikes have evolved, the crowds have dropped. There's more people at that finish area than you would see on the whole track at most WC races today.
  • 5 0
 Take a look at the Fort Bill WC!
  • 1 1
 Even then there wasn't that many people there last year though. The grandstand wasn't even full.
  • 1 0
 You can watch live on PB from around the world, I'd argue the crowds are bigger than ever.
  • 1 0
 Online viewers don't make profits. People at the races do.
  • 6 0
 hahaha CG in scuba pants, always stylish
  • 2 0
 Oh wow that brings back lots of good memories. This was the first MTB race that I ever watched live - I was completely shocked how fast the guys were flying down the trails in Chateau d'Oex. And a great show at the Schwinn Dual Slalom race from Lopes and Palmer! And Warner nose-wheeling down the party area completely drunk. Goold old times!
  • 3 0
 Those bars are so small , wouldn't have made a different if you put a chopstick in the stem . The bikes sound like they're gonna fall apart half way through the course Smile
  • 6 5
 sunn radical was one of the best bikes ever made and i`m not sure if bikes have really advanced much beyond that to be honest, maybe more travel and better brakes! make me a new sunn radical using columbus steel with modern brakes and i`d buy it!!
  • 3 0
 I have heard that the valving on Nico's suspension was far in advance of what everyone else was using. These were the days before slow-speed compression damping/Pro-Pedal (AFAIK first seen on the Foes Curnutt shocks, and then licenced to Manitou? I'm sure someone will correct me).
  • 2 0
 I rode Nico's V-Process bike back in 2000. Nothing came even close. Nothing until the latest generation of Demos, glories, V10s etc... and CCDB/BOS/whatever shocks...
I was told to "ride it into that set of stairs" I said no, and they pushed me to do it... the stairs literally felt like a smooth ramp.
  • 1 0
 It is nice to learn untold stories . .
  • 1 0
 If you listen from 19:20 onward the commentator states that Nico`s bike has a carbon frame with 6 inches of travel front and back. Sounds like modern All whatever enduhard mtb to me.
  • 5 0
 This was great. Cheers PB!
  • 1 0
 Can anyone confirm Please, or this is an urban legend: Did Nico won the worlds on a GT Zaskar Hardtail! -- was it in germany? instead of the thermo plastic LTS, he used the hardtail on hid final run because the track was muddy.
  • 1 1
 I always remember him racing full suspension in DH. He rode a hardtail when he occasionally raced slalom and would rock flashy running shoes.
  • 2 0
 Kirchzarten germany, he was junior and won on an LTS. If he ever won on a hardtail it would have been 93 metabief
  • 1 0
 Sorry for barging in like this, but I never heard that legend and I think it would've gotten around. I am not sure what Nico was riding in 1993 and couldn't find anything handy at this late hour, but if it was GT then it must've been an RTS. I also think he was riding for Sunn, but I was actually stunned to find this 1992 picture from Bromont, riding a full-suspension Sbike, which is wild and weird on all accounts: mercurypress.photoshelter.com/image/I0000Tc9Jry_e_kU

And then this little gem of Anne Caro, courtesy of Mr. Fearon: malcolmfearon.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Bliss-Images-Mountain-Bike-Archive/G0000Xe3vn5qtkaU/I0000SRzTMZwIU4w

Best regards to Leigh! Wink
  • 4 0
 I don't think we will ever see a DH and XC competitor like John Tomac ever again. That is the true athlete!!!!
  • 3 0
 Tomac is truly the GOAT! Don't forget He also won the US nationals xc and dh in a same season.
  • 4 0
 he also won a bmx & road national title.
  • 4 0
 Sentiment is fucking killer I'm going out and ride before I start crying of old age
  • 4 2
 Why did it never occur to them to try wider bars and drop that seat so they don't look like they're riding in high heels???? Two things that are about the lowest tech you can get but make the biggest difference.
  • 3 2
 I agree, how is it possible they didn't figure out the "put the seat down" trick?
  • 2 0
 Because almost everyone was still transitioning from XC racing, some of those things took a while to evolve out of DH racing.
  • 4 0
 the courses back then were not as steep, or technical as they are today.. and they required a LOT of pedaling by modern standards... it was helpful and fast to have a seat position that still allowed you to make power in the saddle while not pitching you over the bars... it was a very different time.. these courses are more like "enduro" courses now days... the bikes were mostly steep angled bikes with 6 and 7" of travel... low and slack didn't become necessary until much more recently...
  • 2 0
 Spot on erik. Although I look back to what I used to race on my xc bike and today that would scare the crap out of me.
  • 4 0
 Knickers with pads make more sense than those ghetto baggies everybody insists we should wear now.
  • 1 0
 Do you have video of Nicolas Vouilloz in the 1995 worlds? and confirm this:

Mens Downhill at Kirchzarten, Germany. Nico switched to a Zaskar just before the start of the race due to the muddy conditions allowing him to pedal more than on the LTS's he and Mike King had been running. King came third.

Gt zaskar was advertised as: "The only hard-tail in the world to win both a downhill and a XC World Championship"
  • 1 0
 hehehe....i still have and ride my old Haro mx3, with the old Hanebrink Summit 7 fork. oddly enough, i havnt had to replace anything but rear rims and derailure since i got it in '98. ohh yeah, i put a different shock on the rear so it sits at 7" instead of the stock 6" it came with.
  • 1 0
 Sun and Nico really were on another level. While the Americans were adjusting their bolt holes on their M1's, Sun was making custom frames for each rider with different pivot locations, shocks and geo. Max Commencal ran the team and Oliver BOSsard made custom suspension that no one else had access to. Data acquisition telemetry that they were downloading at night and revalving the shocks. They had guys on the hill with cameras and doing split times. Doctors, trainers, coaches, French national money, they had what Gwin has today. Oh, and Nico had reaction speeds and the mental outlook that made him a champion on top of all of that!
  • 5 1
 really cool to see part of the evolution of DH racing.
  • 15 0
 Well Peaty is still in about the same place..
  • 2 0
 ye gods, the lack of traction... just crazy how much the wheels are bouncing right off the ground with each hit. I rode in those days, and I don't miss that part AT ALL.
  • 1 0
 Totally agreed. Bikes have evolved so much, I can remember my first gt outlook. In would ride it to and from school because it had gears and wide tires to go off road. But when school got out, it was all about the bmx. hitting construction sites to find dirt drops and lips. Mountian bikes handled so poorly off road on jumps and dirt and always seemed to break easily. My gt pro performer might have been a tank but it was bullet proof and inspired confidence to ride dirt. It all really makes me appreciate the new technology dh and am bikes have today. No more bmx on the dh it's all about the big bike!
  • 3 0
 Anyone who sticks their feet out on every corner needs to watch this and see the style of the dood that won....
  • 2 0
 awesome! you can see the different riding styles of the old time greats. nico gained a huge amount of time by not dabbing so much on those corners!
  • 4 0
 wow, those bars!
  • 4 0
 carbon fiber FTW
  • 1 0
 They had Thermoplastic GT's back in the day. Early carbon technology I guess.
  • 3 0
 3 Italian guys in top 30??? O_O gold age!!!
  • 3 0
 Lovin the old school flash backs!!! So good.
  • 3 0
 on 30th position Rob "look at the time" Warner Smile
  • 3 0
 At the time, French riders, scaried the others....
  • 1 0
 Un peut moins maintenant...
  • 1 0
 Where did all the big car sponsors go? Volvo, Toyota ect, they used to be big players in the DH game.
Only people since was gcross Honda
  • 1 0
 The sponsorship and funding in the 90's was at a very high level, you had everybody and their dog wanting to sponsor anything to do with the sport. Marque riders were receiving good salaries; teams were massively funded by large corporations. Still not near to roadie money being splashed out though. Unfortunately it wasn't sustainable and I think in the early 2000's sponsorship dried up a bit and you had many teams folding or cutting back.
  • 3 0
 Sponsorships for top guys dried out, but technology for us all kept progressing faster than before. I will take that.
  • 3 2
 Simple, Lance Armstrong stole it all. When he won his first tour, the cycling industry started a bit of a retreat into Road. In 2000 after his 2nd win, more of them, by the 3rd tour they all left and with them, went the media coverage and outside the industry sponsorships. Of course it was all based on a fraud/cheat/liar...but screw it, he helped make money for cancer awareness, right?
  • 3 0
 Let it go, it is not just Lance's fault. ... and I would rather they let it slide and be forgotten, instead of all this schadenfreude sideshow.
  • 1 0
 If someone ever gives me crap for riding in "pajamas"...I think I'll just direct them to this video.
Fashion aside...what those guys did on those bikes is mindblowing.
  • 1 0
 Thanks Pinkbike, this took me back to my high school days when I would wait in anticipation to the newest edition of MTB Action to read about all my favorite racers.
  • 1 0
 Does anyone see the flex in the rear wheel and just the whole back of the bike? It was blowing my mind on every corner!! I can't believe they stayed on for a whole run
  • 1 0
 What I learned from this video, races are won in the corners. That was amazing to watch. Wanted the Cannondale Fulcrum so bad when I was a kid.
  • 2 0
 Incredible, Powerbar was targetting the mountainbikers in the nineties ! ;-)))))
  • 2 0
 yes they were, and i was eating them back then when i was ridding even...lol...
  • 3 0
 Mountain Dew as well.
  • 2 0
 Brings back memories of watching this on eurosports
  • 2 1
 I remember one course, I think it was in Spain, where there were hardly any trees and you could see the racer's whole run top to bottom, with one camera. I always though Piscal would eventually dominate like Nico but he never really did.
  • 1 0
 Super late reply, but know the track you mean think it was Sierra Nevada.
Speaking of Spain what happened to David Vazquez? Last time I remember he was on the Volvo-cannondale team (though this was a long time ago!)
  • 2 0
 Nico was unstoppable for years and years to come.
  • 1 0
 Mark Mark Beisiegel (sp) on the mic. I used to watch these at work on my lunch hour in the boardroom projector, good times!
  • 2 0
 my balls hurt just watching those high seatposts. Ouch!
  • 1 0
 That's how they did it back in the day. Haha. I didn't know they had carbon fibre framed bikes back then...
  • 1 0
 I know. I didn't either. There guys were racing prototypes. You couldn't buy most of those bikes. Its quality.
  • 1 0
 Yeah aye, I knew the had CF but I didn't think it was advanced enough to build a bike frame from. I didn't think they were stock standard bikes, a lot of them did look 'out there' in design for the time.
  • 1 0
 Love them green Gustav Ms',still has one from 2003 and it's working properly Smile
  • 1 0
 Hey doe's anyone remember the MTB race guide magazine? That had all the race profiles of the riders?
  • 2 0
 Is it really that hard to pronounce cedrics surname correctly?
  • 2 0
 ''Steve Peat with a time of 6:33.'' Man 6 minutes of torture.
  • 1 0
 6 minutes of torture...and 2-3x longer (by time) than today's WC DH race. with narrow bars!
  • 1 0
 can anybody tell what inverted fork in cedric garcia using? There are DHO's ,x vert ,marzocchi Mr-T,Manitou SX r,Rst Sigma.
  • 1 0
 SUNN had their own design back in those days
  • 1 0
 It looks a lot like Vouilloz's fork, who must have been on some prototype Boss setup. Makes sense, 2 french guys. Boss was way ahead. The commentator even mentions that Vouilloz looked more fluid or smooth than Tomac.
  • 1 0
 carruaje de bicicletas.. imaginate que aparezca alguno con ena de esas bicicletas 2012 en pleno 1997
  • 1 0
 Goes to show how far our sport has come in such a short time... Some major icons on that list
  • 2 0
 Tomac!
  • 1 0
 His origins go back to Slovenia.
  • 1 0
 Awesome, the helmets were spot on!
  • 2 0
 Rob warner , still crazy
  • 1 0
 Wow, Steve Peat rides back in 1997, I'm shocked Smile
  • 3 0
 He rode further back then that mate! 92 was his first worlds for team GB iirc
  • 1 1
 that's a different sport! DH and all mountain biking has progressed so much
  • 1 0
 carbon fiber during that time and winning? who knew!
  • 1 0
 I know. I never knew the Sunn bike Nicolas Vouilloz rode had 6 inches of travel, front AND back. Oh and it was carbon too! That's just amazing. It was the time when they were racing prototypes or bikes that were not available to the public. Completely different to today's market. Good stuff.
  • 1 0
 I don,t remember Nico riding a carbon fiber bike back then , i know he ran cromoly lots on the SUNN designs , GT was playing with thermoplastic designs and Giant was playing with some MCM designs but only on their rode bikes and crosscountry designs
  • 2 0
 Appreciate your bike!
  • 1 1
 could i beat anyone of those guys, going back in time with my 2012 (prototype) DH rig??
  • 3 1
 Jürgen Beneke rules !
  • 1 0
 THAT WAS GREAT!! thank u sooo much pinkbike for sharing this!!
  • 1 0
 Love Tomac's run, loosey goosey!
  • 1 0
 Check the frame and wheel flex in Klausmann's run! Still flying.
  • 2 0
 The slo-mo of his from 12.42 to 12.52 is unreal. It's the opposite of your normal drift - the bike is facing to the outside of the corner while the rider faces the intended line.

It looks like a Sintessi Bazooka. www.galeon.com/clasicdh2 and scroll down. The colour is right, shock placement is right, and swingarm is dead-on.
  • 1 0
 I think your right. My friend had one back in the day
  • 2 0
 Aka my cuz
  • 2 0
 I was born in 1997 haha
  • 2 0
 And I finished grad school and got a job. Bought 1997 Yeti AS-3 to go with my 1994 FSR. I have retired FSR just recently - with new shock and forks it kept riding as a commuter. AS-3 was sold quite soon.
  • 2 0
 Yea, I just graduated high school, got a grassroots deal with my lbs through Kona and got myself a Hei Hei that I still ride every week.
  • 1 0
 I rode Kaprun Worldcup in 1997. Good times.
  • 1 0
 now, everybody knows why Nico's nickname is E.T !!!
  • 2 1
 Or just "The Alien"
  • 1 0
 Steve Peat still killing it!
  • 1 0
 thats some good quality for filming with a potatoe
  • 1 0
 tomac tosses his goggles. awesome.
  • 1 0
 i didnt know Volvo was into mtblol
  • 1 0
 volvo-canondale, subaru-specialized, hyundai-mongoose
  • 1 0
 yeah wasnt a follower back then... worse, couldnt even ride back then
  • 1 0
 refreshing to watch a sport before monster and redbull got hands on it
  • 1 0
 Cedric GRACIA! Way to go...
  • 1 0
 Awesome video beginning to end, fantastic stuff!
  • 1 0
 More retro video Pinkbike!
  • 1 0
 Look at the "stiffness" of the rear wheel at 12.45.. What the ??
  • 1 0
 Dude! This is the good stuff! It really makes me wanna go ride!
  • 1 0
 Why does they keep there seatpost this high ...
  • 1 0
 It cannot be seen anymore, can you repost it?
  • 1 0
 foot out flat out!
  • 1 0
 Misser the corner?
  • 1 0
 John Tomac awesome!
  • 1 0
 2:41 hahahaha
  • 1 0
 DUDE!! those bars!
  • 1 0
 TOMAC!!!
  • 1 0
 this is the good shit!
  • 1 0
 nice legs CG Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Legends! xz
  • 1 1
 i was born in 1997





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