Froome: It's up to the others to attack on Planche des Belles Filles

After four days of racing at the Tour de France, Chris Froome and Team Sky are sitting in a very comfortable position at the top of the overall standings. As the race heads into the first mountain test on the Planche des Belles Fille, the team is in yellow and second place.

With a healthy margin over the rest of their rivals, after a strong time trial showing on the opening day, Froome says that it is up to them to go on the attack.

“I think, as a team, we’re in a really good position at the moment with G leading and myself in second and Kwiatko in the top 10,” said Froome. “I think, we will probably ride more of a defensive race tomorrow and try to look after our position. It’s up to the others to go on the offensive tomorrow.”

Planche des Belles Filles was the scene of Froome’s first Tour de France stage victory back in 2012. Rather than team leader, he was playing the role of domestique for eventual winner Bradley Wiggins. He was allowed to race away for victory, putting himself into the polka-dot jersey in the process. He didn’t make it to the climb when the race returned to it for just the second time in its history after crashing out of the race earlier in the week.

“I’ve got some pretty cool memories from 2012, my first stage win of the Tour de France,” Froome explained. “Having said that, as it was in 2012, it was the first opportunity to test our legs on the climbs at the Tour de France and see exactly where all our rivals are at. I imagine it will be, especially considering how the time trial went, I expect some of my rivals will be looking to make up time and going on the offensive tomorrow.”

In both 2012 and 2014, the time differences at the top of the climb were not too much and with very little climbing ahead of the summit finish, Froome believes it will be a fairly similar affair on Wednesday.

“I don’t really see any major time losses or gains tomorrow. I think it’s definitely a good test and show of where everyone is at. But, as in the time trial, I don’t really see there being more than 20 or 30 seconds between the main GC rivals.”

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Bora-Hansgrohe make official protest against Peter Sagan’s disqualification from Tour de France

The German team say they completely disagree with the commissaires decision to throw Sagan out of the race

Peter Sagan‘s Bora-Hansgrohe team say they have made an official protest to the UCI about the expulsion of the world champion from the 2017 Tour de France.

Sagan was disqualified from the Tour after stage four for “very serious manoeuvre in the sprint” in the final 250m of the race to Vittel, which resulted in Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) crashing against the barriers and to the floor.

>>> The UCI race jury explains decision to disqualify Peter Sagan from the Tour de France

Cavendish has subsequently been forced to retire from the Tour after x-rays revealed he had broken his shoulder.

Initially, stage three winner Sagan was given a 30 second time penalty and handed a 80 point deduction in the green jersey standings.

Sagan and Cavendish collide on stage four of the Tour de France (Sunada)

But complaints from Dimension Data saw the race jury reassess the incident and they decided to disqualify the Slovakian.

On Tuesday evening, shortly after Cavendish was confirmed out of the race, Bora released a statement saying they had made an official protest to the UCI.

“The UCI World Champion Peter Sagan was disqualified today, according to article 12.1.040/ 10.2.2. (irregular sprint) in the result/communiqué. The team disagrees with the decision and protested it officially,” the statement rad.

“Peter Sagan rejected to have caused, or in any way intended to cause the crash of Mark Cavendish on the final 200m of the stage. Peter stayed on his line in the sprint and could not see Cavendish on the right side.

“The team applied for a redress of Peter Sagan’s result in stage four.”

The German squad’s protests are likely to come to naught however, with the UCI regulations clearly stating that decisions can not be appealed.

Rule 12.2.007 of the cycling regulations says that “decisions handed down by the commissaires are final and not open to appeal.”

Sagan, for his part, says he didn’t have time to react in the incident which saw Cavendish try to pass him on the right hand side of the road as the race’s leading sprinters fought for position.

“In the sprint I didn’t know that Mark Cavendish was behind me,” Sagan said.

“He was coming from the right side, and I was trying to go on Kristoff’s wheel. Mark was coming really fast from the back and I just didn’t have time to react and to go left.

“He came into me and he went into the fence. When I was told after the finish that Mark had crashed, I went straight away to find out how he was doing.

“We are friends and colleagues in the peloton and crashes like that are never nice. I hope Mark recovers soon.”

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Mark Cavendish out of Tour de France 2017 with broken shoulder

The Manxman was brought down after colliding with Peter Sagan on the Tour de France stage four

Mark Cavendish will not start the fifth stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday after scans showed he has broken his shoulder in a crash on stage four.

Cavendish was brought down after colliding with world champion Peter Sagan in the final 250m of the race and suffered a deep cut to his hand as well as the shoulder injury.

Sagan, who appeared to elbow the British sprinter as he passed him on the right hand side next to the barriers, was later disqualified for his part in the incident.

More to follow…

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Rival teams braced for Richie Porte attack on first summit finish of Tour de France

Team Sky and Trek-Segafredo both expecting Australian to go on the attack

Stage five of the Tour de France sees the race’s first summit finish at La Planche des Belle Filles, with rival teams expecting an attack from Richie Porte (BMC Racing) after he looked strong on stage three.

Porte briefly opened a gap over his rivals on the short hill to Longwy, and could be on the move again on stage five as he looks to claw back some of the time he lost in the wet opening time trial in Düsseldorf.

“Yes, I certainly think so,” was the response of Trek-Segafredo general manager Luca Guercilena when asked if he expected Porte to attack on the 20 per cent gradients of La Planche des Belle Filles.

>>> UCI race jury explains decision to disqualify Peter Sagan from the Tour de France

“One of the best qualities of Richie was what we saw at the Tour Down Under. He can go deep in a short time and make a big gap because he has speed and he will be one of the guys who will attack. “

However Guercilena also said that it could be hard for Porte to attack if, as he expects, Team Sky take control of the race and set a high tempo on the climb.

Watch: Tour de France stage four highlights

Team Sky sports director Nicholas Portal certainly seems to be considering doing exactly that, saying that the team plans to Michal Kwiatkowski, Sergio Henao, Mikel Landa, and the yellow jersey of Geraint Thomas near the front to protect Chris Froome.

Asked whether he expected Porte to attack, Portal responded “yes, I think so”, going on to say that he expected all of the GC riders who lost time to Thomas and Froome in the opening time trial to consider making a move.

“All of the GC guys need to try something. If they don’t on La Planche des Belle Filles they need to try another day, on another summit finish or somewhere else. We saw yesterday [on stage three] that some of the guys just want to see how they are.”

>>> Former top sprinters condemn decision to disqualify Peter Sagan from Tour de France

As for BMC Racing themselves, the team seem confident that the climb, which averages 8.5 per cent for 5.9 kilometres but kicks up to more than 20 per cent for the final few hundred metres, could suit Porte.

“We’re ready to race,” said general manager Jim Ochowicz.

“It’s a good climb for Richie, it suits his style of racing well. He can go well on that sort of a climb and the 20 per cent grade at the top is something he likes to do . We’re optimistic that it’s going to be a good stage for us.”

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‘I thought I should go back, but that would look stupid’: Guillaume Van Keirsbulck’s 190km solo break

Belgian rider talks about his long solo breakaway effort

Here’s a question: what would you do if you attacked from the gun on a 207km Tour de France stage and the peloton let you go — on your own?

That was the situation Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) found himself in during today’s fourth stage from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel. He admits the thought of a day spent alone battling a cross-headwind on tough, rolling roads wasn’t exactly the plan, but there was no going back once he found himself out front.

>>> Arnaud Démare wins Tour de France stage four as Mark Cavendish taken down in crash

“Yeah, the first moment I thought ‘s***, I’ll go back’, but it looks stupid to come back. My directeur [Hilaire Van der Schueren] said some riders might join me, within five kilometres he said, but I saw nobody…. It was a long day.”

“It was a hard day. It was a whole day of headwind and sidewind,” continued the 26-year-old Belgian. “It’s never easy because you can’t ride on a wheel or sit behind a motorbike (laughs).”

Watch: Tour de France stage four highlights

He insisted however, that one thing it wasn’t was boring: “I’m enjoying it, it’s really nice to see all the people around the roads, it’s crazy from the start to the finish — one line of people. It was not a boring day.”

Van Keirsbulck — whose grandfather Benoni Beheyt won the World Championship road race in 1963 and now motorpaces him in training — was caught at 16km to go after 190km out front alone. It was, he pragmatically admitted, pretty much what he knew would happen.

>>> Five talking points from stage four of the Tour de France

“It’s not easy on a sprint stage to stay on the front, but you never know eh? If a team makes mistakes, it happens sometimes, but I think it would be too nice to win a stage of the Tour de France already.

“After the last climb I went full gas,” he added, “but I could feel my legs weren’t so good any more. It was also up and down, with a headwind…

Van der Schueren, for one, wasn’t complaining: “It makes me proud of the team because we are here fighting against the WorldTour teams,” he said. “When you see after 50km that the WorldTour teams work to chase after the small teams, then that’s great for us.”

>>> UCI race jury explains decision to disqualify Peter Sagan from the Tour de France

He admitted that a day-long solo break wasn’t strictly the plan, but it had its benefits: “The plan was to go in a four or five or six rider break, but the other riders were not coming. He was alone and took all the publicity.

“It’s a physical thing, it’s a mental thing, it’s everything,” he said of riding in a day-long break. “I can say now that he is there on television, he gets a lot of publicity. Everybody knows him because he was one of the biggest riders in Belgium when he was young, but a few years ago nobody knew him. 2015, 2016 no prizes and now he make a very good one. In the beginning of a very big race for us, it’s very good for us.”

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The UCI race jury explains decision to disqualify Peter Sagan from the Tour de France

“We warned the sprinters that we would look very close at every sprint. And that is what we did today.”

The UCI jury decided to set the boundaries early with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) after having warned the sprinters it would be looking closely at every finish in the 2017 Tour de France.

Sagan and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) collided and Cavendish crashed in the Tour’s fourth stage on Tuesday in Vittel.

>>> Peter Sagan disqualified from Tour de France

“There was a very long discussion, it’s not an easy decision to take, it’s not because it’s about Sagan, but it’s about the act that a rider made,” UCI Jury president Philippe Marien said.

“We are at the beginning of the Tour de France. Before the Tour de France, we warned the sprinters that we would look very close at every sprint. And that is what we did today.

Peter Sagan elbows Mark Cavendish on stage four of the 2017 Tour de France (Sunada)

“It was not an easy decision, but it’s the beginning of the Tour and this is now the moment to set our boundaries, and that is what we have done today.”

The Tour press release from the UCI jury referred to article 12.1.040/10.2.2 Sprint Irréguilier. Sagan went from second place to taking the car home.

>>> Mark Cavendish: ‘I’d like to speak with Peter… a crash is a crash, but I’d like to know about the elbow’

Cavendish finished the stage but had to go to the hospital for check-ups. His Dimension Data team fears a problem with his right shoulder.

“The jury decided to disqualify Peter Sagan because of the very serious manoeuvre in the sprint. I didn’t know anything about the first crash [at 1.5km out], it’s only about this crash,” Marien continued.

Mark Cavendish crashes after colliding with Peter Sagan at the Tour de France (Sunada)

“This article 12.1.040 says that the jury can decide to send a rider home after a very serious violation.

“Because of the fact that we decided we can apply this article because it’s a very severe violation, it doesn’t matter if it’s the name Sagan, this disqualification is qualified and justified.”

Sagan appeared to close to the right and leave no room for Cavendish and the world champion’s elbow came out to the right when doing so.

Peter Sagan rides injured to the finish of stage four of the Tour de France (Sunada)

“In every sprint something happens, but what happens there, it looks like it was on purpose and it almost looks like hitting a person,” he added.

“It’s not about Sagan or Cavendish, it could be Joe Blow. It doesn’t mater, we just take our action.”

The jury looked also looked at an incident between eventual stage winner Arnaud Démare (FDJ) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).

“But that looked to me to be much less severe than the Sagan and Cavendish incident.”

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Dimension Data boss doubts Mark Cavendish will be able to start Tour de France stage five

Doug Ryder says they can only hope Cavendish will be able to continue at the Tour de France after his crash on stage four

Dimension Data says that Mark Cavendish‘s shoulder “does not look good” after crashing with Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and does not think that he can start in the fifth stage of the Tour de France.

The jury disqualified Peter Sagan after he drifted into Manx cyclist in the final 150 metres of the stage to Vittel. Cavendish with his right arm in a sling had to go to the hospital.

>>> Mark Cavendish: ‘I’d like to speak with Peter… a crash is a crash, but I’d like to know about the elbow’

“His shoulder does not look good so we’ll have to wait and see, we can only hope,” team principal Doug Ryder said when asked if he thought Cavendish could continue.

Mark Cavendish rides injured to the finish of stage four of the Tour de France (Sunada)

“He’s a tough guy but that was a hard crash. We can only hope but I’m not sure.”

Cavendish left the bus and was forced to take his anti-doping test first before his x-rays.

“It doesn’t look good, we have to wait for the x-rays, but let’s hope that it’s nothing that severe, but it didn’t look that great from my perspective. But I’m not a doctor.”

The jury decided later after Ryder spoke that Sagan should go home. Sagan won stage three on Monday and won the green points jersey in the last five editions of the Tour de France.

The incident happened with Cavendish, the Tour de France’s most successful sprinter. Cavendish counts 30 stage wins and is nearly the record held by Eddy Merckx at 34. He fought to recover from glandular fever just to be on the start line for the 2017 edition.

Mark Cavendish is elbowed by Peter Sagan on stage four of the Tour de France (Sunada)

“It was ridiculous, that wasn’t racing as it should be,” Ryder said.

“At that speed, there are instincts that happen. I don’t think anybody does anything deliberately. It happened, and I don’t think it’s right.

“To be disqualified … that affects him and his race, but it doesn’t help us in terms of Mark and his career. He’s a legend in the sport and that’s really disappointing.

“You can see all the guys moving over and Peter’s elbow moved off the bar after. Sprinter are sprinters but the deviation is pretty drastic around there.”

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Peter Sagan disqualified from Tour de France

St 1 Sat July 1, Düsseldorf (DE), 14km ITT
St 2 Sun July 2, Düsseldorf (DE) – Liège (BE), 203.5km
St 3 Mon July 3, Verviers (BE) – Longwy, 212.5km
St 4 Tue July 4, Mondorf-les-Bains (LU) – Vittel, 207.5km
St 5 Wed July 5, Vittel – La Planche des Belles Filles, 160.5km
St 6 Thu July 6, Vesoul – Troyes, 216km
St 7 Fri July 7, Troyes – Nuits-Saint-Georges, 213.5km
St 8 Sat July 8, Dole – Station des Rousses, 187.5km
St 9 Sun July 9, Nantua – Chambéry, 181.5km
St 10 Tues July 11, Périgueux – Bergerac, 178km
St 11 Wed July 12: Eymet – Pau, 203.5km
St 12 Thurs July 13 Pau – Peyragudes, 214.5km
St 13 Fri July 14: Saint-Girons – Foix, 101km
St 14 Sat July 15: Blagnac – Rodez, 181.5km
St 15 Sun July 16, Laissac-Sévérac L’Eglise – Le Puy-en-Velay, 189.5km
St 16 Tue July 18, Brioude – Romans-sur-Isère, 165km
St 17 Wed July 19: La Mure – Serre Chevalier, 183km
St 18 Thu July 20: Briançon – Col d’Izoard, 179.5km
St 19 Fri July 21, Embrun – Salon-de-Provence, 222.5km
St 20 Sat July 22: Marseille, 22.5km ITT
St 21 Sun July 23: Montgeron – Paris, 103km

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Arnaud Démare wins Tour de France stage four in finale blighted by crashes

Two big crashes marred and otherwise quiet day at the Tour de France on stage four

Arnaud Démare (FDJ) took his first Tour de France victory on stage four of the 2017 race, in a finish which was blighted by crashes.

The French champion beat Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) into second and third respectively.

A relatively quiet day saw the final 10km ramp up in speed as the sprint teams began to setup their main men for victory.

But with all the fighting for position and some tricky corners in the closing 2km, there were two big incidents that saw riders hit the deck on the approach to the line.

The first came just before the flamme rouge and saw much of the middle of the peloton come down on the left hand side of the road, with race leader Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) getting caught up in the incident.

Green jersey Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step), who was hoping to take his second stage win of this Tour, was also caught up in the mayhem and was dropped as the sprinters at the front of the group continued on at a ferocious pace towards the line.

Those who avoided the first crash included Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) as well as Sagan, Kristoff and Démare among others.

But as everyone began to launch their sprint and move towards the right hand side of the road, Cavendish attempted to move around Sagan from the back of the group close to the barriers with 400m to go.

It appeared that the world champion caught Cavendish with his elbow as he edged to the right, sending the Manxman flying into the barriers and crashing to the ground.

That incident took down Degenkolb and Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates) who both appeared to get back up shortly after. However, Cavendish remained on the ground and it looked likely he wouldn’t be able to continue.

Ahead, Démare was able to weave his way through and power ahead as Kristoff began to fade. Sagan, who was involved in that incident shortly before, was still able to close up on the sprinters ahead but wasn’t able to stop Démare, who took his first ever stage at the Tour ahead of Sagan.

Geraint Thomas, in spite of the crash, was able to safely finish and retain the overall lead while his team-mate Chris Froome also remained safe along with the other GC contenders.

A mega solo break

The day began quietly with another route of 200km on the cards ahead of the first summit finish on Wednesday’s stage five.

From the drop of the flag, only one man, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) was willing to get away into the breakaway, and was perhaps surprised by the lack of other riders wanting to join him.

With no movement behind, the Belgian then pushed on alone with still more than 200km to go on the flat, 207.5km route.

The peloton were happy let him get a huge chunk of time with complete confidence they’d bring him back.

Van Keirsbulck gained almost 13 minutes on the bunch, before things began to turn on him. The gap quickly tumbled with 60km to go, and the lone leader looked doomed.

Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) goes it alone on stage four of the 2017 Tour de France (ASO)

He was eventually dragged back in with 16.8km to go, as the sprint teams really began to engage themselves towards the finish.

It was then that the carnage ensued within the final couple of kilometres after a lot of jostling between teams on the run-in to town.

But despite the controversy between Sagan and Cavendish, Démare emerged a deserving winner with enough power and sped that he didn’t look like anyone would have beaten him to his maiden Tour win.

The Tour de France continues on Wednesday with stage five; a 160.5km to the first summit finish at Le Plance des Belles Filles.


Tour de France 2017, stage four: Mondotf-les-Bains – Vittel (207.5km)

1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ, in 4-53-54
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin
4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
5 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
6 Adrien Petit (Fra) Direct Energie
7 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 7s
8 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 7s
9 Manuele Mori (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 10s
10 Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 10s

Geraint Thomas on stage four of the Tour de France (ASO)

General classification after stage four

1 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, in 14-54-25
2 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 7s
3 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 12s
4 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 12s
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data, at 16s
6 Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R La Mondialeat 25s
7 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 30s
8 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, at 32s
9 Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 32s
10 Arnaud Démare (Fra) FDJ, at 33s

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‘100 per cent useless’: Pros and directors question effectiveness of new three-second rule for sprints

The new rule introduced by the UCI for the Tour de France hasn’t changed much, say some of the pros and directors at the race

The new three-second rule put into place for the 2017 Tour de France to make the bunch sprints safer “is 100 per cent useless,” say some. Others applaud the change.

>>> What type of Tour de France rider are you most like?

The UCI put into place a new rule for the Tour de France and other races saying that a bunch would only be split on time if the gap was timed at three seconds or more. Before, a split would be considered already at one second.

The idea is that it creates less pressure on the classification men to battle for positions with the sprinters in the final kilometres to avoid losing time.

“It’s useless, 100 per cent,” said Eusebio Unzué, manager at team Movistar with Nairo Quintana.

“It doesn’t do what it was created to do. Sincerely, with this rule, it’s the same thing as before. I’m for sure, even now that they started it, it’ll be 100 per cent useless.”

The UCI said that at 60kph the distance between the last rider of a group and the first of the next is 17 metres at one second. At three seconds, it is over three times more at 50 metres.

“It doesn’t affect things at all. The Tour is too nervous for guys to be thinking about guys leaving gaps,” said Orica-Scott head sports director Matt White.

“I don’t think the rule changes makes much of a difference. It’s not going to change here until the bunch sees that on days it is splitting that there is no time split. The guys see that OK, maybe I can be a little more relaxed. But the GC teams will ride the same.”

“If you have a multi-million dollar rider who’s going for a top GC placing in the Tour you are not going to just sit last wheel because they made a slight adjustment to the rules,” Charly Wegelius, Cannondale-Drapac sports director said.

“We have to be aware of the fact that winning the Tour or winning stage races is also about being one of the best bike riders. Capable of being in the peloton and riding at the front. I don’t think we should go too far and take the edges off it.”

“You still can’t afford to let any gap go because if it is over that three-second gap then it’s more than three seconds,” said Ben Swift (UAE Team Emirates).

“It goes to the front of the peloton, so you’re not just losing three seconds you’re losing much more, so an extra two seconds to what you would lose before.

“It’s a start. It’s something to make it a bit safer, but I don’t think you can change much because it’s a race and you can’t just say GC neutralised for the final five kilometres because then it changes everything.”

One rule also says that if there is a crash in the final three kilometres and a rider is involved than he will not lose time. Some argued this should be extended or that the time of the bunch should be taken at a point, say three kilometres out, and let the others sprint for the stage win.

Watch: Tour de France stage three highlights

“You need a longer distance [than the three-kilometre crash rule] because if there is a crash at four kilometres then the guys lose time if the road is blocked,” Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe) explained.

“Create a rule of five kilometres for crashes or more and then neutralise the time for the GC riders. It’s safer for everyone, you saw that in the Tour de Suisse when they did so, it was much safer for the sprinters to do their job.”

“Maybe the new rule should be 10 seconds before it is considered a gap!” sprinter Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) said.

“Maybe they should consider neutralising the final three kilometres. It would be strange, but that’s a suggestion.

“[The new rule] helps for the GC guys and helps for the sprinters. They should be less nervous because they have a bigger gap now, 50 metres. But let’s see.”

“This is better than before even if three seconds is small,” said Daniele Bennati, domestique for Quintana. “It’s good that GC men can relax a bit before and avoid those crashes and us helpers can stay a little calmer.

“Still, it’s clear that we have to always stay attentive because we can’t allow a gap for Quintana. If you are in the first 25, it’s difficult that you get caught out, but that’s stressful to stay there.”

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