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Entries For: 2013


Is winning everything?

How important is winning?

Over the last few months I've had reason to answer the question, in a couple of different contexts, "How important is winning?".

It's a very interesting question indeed.

Ultimately, we race to win. In sprint, it's not about finishing the race, unlike most of the people who race endurance events.  Just to finish the Warny for example, is a win.  Second place in a match sprint is not a win.  Finishing a flying 200 is not a win. It sucks to lose a sprint and still get a medal.  In some ways bronze is better than silver, emotionally.  You won bronze, you lost to get silver.

How important is it?  It's very context-sensitive.  If you're a recreational sprinter racing the Summer Sprint Series, it's important to be competitive and have fun, that's why we grade it and it's a round robin format.  For development purposes, this is an ideal format, plenty of racing, plenty of chances to win, and try things and to try things that don't necessarily work the way you expect them.

If you're a coach in a government funded elite squad, winning is all-important.  Head sprint coaches at the Olympic games for Australia, Great Britain, Germany, France etc are there to win.  That's their job. It's absolutely vital that they win. They can't all win, and those that don't can get the chop by their organisations if they don't.  It's very intense and the stakes are high. It's only a bike race, but it's not!  Millions of dollars of goverment and private funding, years of dedication and sacrifice from the athletes and the coaches, there's a lot at stake. When it goes badly at that level, it's brutal. 

Compare this to Cool Runnings.  We've all seen it, it's a classic and one of the best sporting movies ever made.  Those guys won, not the race, but a battle against almost overwhelming odds to get to the start line.  If you're not at the top level, getting to the top level is a win.

Think about Lori-Ann Muenzer in our context, or Sir Chris Hoy, who was a pioneer of what is now one of, if not the, best sprint programmes in the world.  Hoy's story really is amazing.  His autobiography is a must read for anyone in sprint cycling.

From a development perspective, working with a development group like I do with the Vic sprint group (15 to 18 year olds, mostly) and some of the aboc guys, winning bike races isn't as critically important in the short term.  It'a a long term goal - we ARE training the kids to win races and it's important that they do, but it is at least as important that they develop the strength, power, speed, skill and emotional maturity to cope with the pressure to win that they will face if they make it into an elite squad.

These attributes can take time. A junior athlete with potential may not be winning much at first, it may take years of hard work for them to progress to the level where they are winning races and if winning is everything, these guys drop out.  We need them (and the seniors!) to concentrate on improvement and processes.  You'll hear a lot of "focus on the process". This means focussing on what you're doing, whatever it is, and letting the results take care of themselves.  If you're focussing on a solid start out of a gate, arms straight, head up etc and not on "I must win this race", you'll usually do a better start, and are more likely to win, or at least, give yourself the best chance you have to win. The athletes need to protect themselves from this pressure (pity the coaches!) and have sports psychs to help them with it. In order to win, they need to forget about winning.  Just like tennis in a lot of ways.  There are some very good books on tennis winning, I can recommend The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey.  Get it, read it. It's good.

Back on topic, winning is, ultimately, what it's all about for us, but we must approach that with a long term plan and process and with athletes fully aware that while we're preparing them to win, we want to see focus, dedication and improvement.  Tick those boxes and the wins will come.





Track racing holder technique

How to hold and push riders


Don't fear Fat

Filed Under:

A movie I helped fund (kickstarter!) is out now ...

Yekra Player

Yekra is a revolutionary new distribution network for feature films.

Cereal Killers

The film follows Donal – a lean, fit, seemingly healthy 41 year old man – on a quest to hack his genes and drop dead healthy by avoiding the heart disease and diabetes that has afflicted his family.

Donal’s father Kevin, an Irish gaelic football star from the 1960s, won the first of 2 All Ireland Championships with the Down Senior Football Team in 1960 before the biggest crowd (94,000) ever seen at an Irish sporting event.

When Kevin suffered a heart attack later in life, family and friends were shocked. How does a lean, fit and seemingly healthy man – who has sailed through cardiac stress tests – suddenly fall victim to heart disease?

Can a controversial diet consisting of 70% fat provide the answers?


Working with athletes on tour

Some pointers/reminders

I've been dropped in the deep end on a couple of occasions now with teams and travel and working with athletes I'm not familiar with. Here's some notes on what you need to work out with the athlete before race day :


When working with a new rider on tour, the following need to be discussed between coach(es) and the rider :


  • "What do you need on race day to perform at your best?"
  • Pre race briefings – what do you need? Focus/humour/leave me alone?
  • "Debrief after races? If good result? If bad? When/how?"
  • "Food/drink/suppliments"? What/When/How/Why? (legal?!)
  • Warmup and cool down support?
  • Logistics?
  • Any special needs?
  • Equipment, any quirks? Power meters? Special gears? Tyres? Pressures? Can do own gear changes etc? Spares?
  • Push starts? Ok with pushing on body? Lifting on start lines? Ok with hand on top tube? Check with parents as well if a junior?
  • After racing – pack up protocol, a rush? Talk with other competitors? Allowed time for socialising?
  • Who packs up equipment? Any special requirements?
  • Travel – any after effects, and travel medication?
  • Medication/illness – anything?


What not to do?

Do NOT challenge an athlete's training or race choices.  You're there to get the best out of them, not to change them. If they're working with another coach, it is NOT your role to change what they do on race day.

There's more, but these are some key things to start with.

Noakes, Brukner, low carb athletes

Filed Under:

Low carb and sports

can it be done?

How to not be an arse

How a prominent Melbourne bike shop got in hot water

Many of you may be aware, a prominent and very visable Melbourne bike shop got in trouble last week for posting online some topless photos from an event they had at their shop.  A lot of fuss has been made about it, I think justifiable.  What this shop did was pretty damn stupid at best, but to make it worse, they then posted online a pathetic justification of it. It blew up all over Melbourne, as well it may have been expected to.  It was a wrong thing for them to have done, and their "management" of the issue just made it worse.  If they'd said "sorry, we did a dumb thing and have learned not to do it again" and left it at that, all would probably have been forgiven by most of us.

Given the unrepentent behaviour of the shop owner after this all blew up, a complaint was raised to the shop's major supplier, and they, to their credit, did the right thing.  The suppliers brand will survive untarnished, but the shop? The guy who runs it has shown his true colours.  There are many, many bike shops in Melboune that respect their customers and female cyclists and who stock all the same stuff as this mob.  You have choices with regards to who you take your business to.  Please choose wisely.

Now we can all get back to training and racing our bikes!



Mexico flying 200's

Records fall at altitude

Here's the top 16 mens F200's from Mexico overnight, compared to Manchester a month ago. Interestingly the standard deviation is the same, so it's consistent.  Altitude makes a BIG difference.


  2013 – 2014 manchester world cup 2013-2014 Aquasuentes world cup
  9.799 9.347
  9.871 9.459
  9.936 9.558
  9.944 9.563
  9.945 9.573
  9.947 9.609
  9.957 9.634
  9.964 9.637
  9.976 9.640
  10.015 9.643
  10.046 9.658
  10.068 9.668
  10.106 9.678
  10.111 9.681
  10.112 9.683
  10.115 9.692

fastest 9.799 9.347
mean 9.995 9.608
SD 0.093 0.093
fastest vs mean 0.196 0.261

At Mexico, it was around 24 degrees C, 15% humidity and 900hPa. I don't have the data for Manchester, but Manchester is at sea level (so around 1024hPa on average), Mexico is around 1900m above sea level.  If you apply the AIS's environmental correction tool, the fastest time at Mexico ends up at ~9.7s, which is roughly the fastest at Manchester.


Cereal killers!

Filed Under:

Watch it .. seriously!

Yekra Player

Yekra is a revolutionary new distribution network for feature films.

Cereal Killers


The film follows Donal – a lean, fit, seemingly healthy 41 year old man – on a quest to hack his genes and drop dead healthy by avoiding the heart disease and diabetes that has afflicted his family.

Donal’s father Kevin, an Irish gaelic football star from the 1960s, won the first of 2 All Ireland Championships with the Down Senior Football Team in 1960 before the biggest crowd (94,000) ever seen at an Irish sporting event.

When Kevin suffered a heart attack later in life, family and friends were shocked. How does a lean, fit and seemingly healthy man – who has sailed through cardiac stress tests – suddenly fall victim to heart disease?

Can a controversial diet consisting of 70% fat provide the answers?



New rules in Queensland?

Wait & see ...


Cargo Cult coaching?

Why do we do things the way we do?

Interesting, it applies to a lot of fields (all of them?!) - People do things because they've seen them done, not necessarily becaise they understand the reasons why or how they work.

As a coach, it's important not just to "do" but also to understand why we do what we do.  It's ok to copy/learn from other programs, disciplines and coaches, but ONLY if we know why and how - or at least, have some understanding of the method.  Not everything in coaching is clear cut and often the "evidence base" is pretty flimsy, but we must strive towards greater understanding of what we do, why and how it works (or doesn't!).

Coaches are not scientists, we're engineers.  We apply the best available science, mix in some gut feeling and experience where the science is lacking, and run with it to build bridges.  We need to understand science much as an engineer does, we have to be able to speak the langauage and ask the right questions (see this : as an example of how to read and question ex phys papers).  We're not scientists, but we have to think like them sometimes, and call them if they're making mistakes.  It happens, a lot.  A lot more than we'd like!

(I'm a big Feynman fan, I have a few of his books, the guy was a once in a lifetime genius)




How accurate is hand timing?

On the weekend at the Vic track cup, I did some hand timing

At the Vic Track cup, I did some hand timing, it's interesting to compare to the electronic system - my average error was 0.04s, the worst was 0.13s (I was distracted for that one by people in front of the start line).

Touted around is that hand timing is no better than 0.1s, I say "rubbish", if you're concentrating and not having your line of sight blocked, you can be around 0.05s or better pretty consisantly.  Here's the raw data, electronic timing rounded to hundredths.



Hand Electronic

12.48 12.39 0.1
11.44 11.40 0.04
11.63 11.60 0.03
11.15 11.09 0.06
11.96 11.90 0.06

12.35 12.34 0.01
11.47 11.50 0.03
13.76 13.71 0.05
11.93 11.90 0.03
13.12 13.08 0.04
13.05 13.01 0.04


12.35 12.31 0.04
12.40 12.37 0.03
11.54 11.50 0.04
10.77 10.77 0
11.26 11.22 0.04

11.63 11.61 0.02
11.24 11.22 0.02
10.87 10.88 0.01
10.91 10.92 0.01
11.37 11.39 0.02
12.00 12.02 0.02
11.42 11.41 0.01
11.40 11.35 0.05
10.94 10.81 0.13


A little number crunching

Filed Under:

Olympic flying 200's, vs Manchester world cup

Some data for your enjoyment :


2000 2004 2008 2012 2013 – manchester world cup
10.166 10.177 9.815 9.713 9.799
10.243 10.214 9.857 9.952 9.871
10.277 10.230 10.064 9.987 9.936
10.287 10.264 10.098 10.072 9.944
10.343 10.271 10.123 10.088 9.945
10.370 10.381 10.199 10.123 9.947
10.459 10.441 10.272 10.144 9.957
10.520 10.446 10.314 10.155 9.964
10.526 10.454 10.318 10.201 9.976
10.530 10.462 10.337 10.202 10.015
10.540 10.515 10.346 10.226 10.046
10.556 10.565 10.362 10.247 10.068
10.595 10.597 10.373 10.311 10.106
10.603 10.646 10.391 10.323 10.111
10.649 10.673 10.470 10.350 10.112
10.745 10.758 10.497 10.604 10.115

10.166 10.177 9.815 9.713 9.799

10.463 10.443 10.240 10.169 9.995

0.164 0.177 0.200 0.197 0.093
fastest vs mean        
0.297 0.266 0.425 0.456 0.196


So what is all this? this is the top 16 times from the Olympics in the era of indoor 250m "standard" velodromes for the flying 200 for men.  From Sydney to London (yes, Athens was "outdoors", but it had a roof!), and finally the data from the Manchester world cup last week.

Here's the women, I've used the top 12 to be consistent with the Olympic qualifiers since Sydney :


2000 2004 2008 2012 2013 – manchester world cup
11.262 11.291 10.963 10.724 10.874
11.439 11.364 11.106 10.805 10.900
11.494 11.364 11.140 11.020 11.019
11.512 11.380 11.167 11.027 11.065
11.526 11.400 11.222 11.080 11.103
11.545 11.430 11.365 11.109 11.161
11.548 11.456 11.372 11.203 11.183
11.649 11.597 11.400 11.234 11.211
11.650 11.622 11.462 11.241 11.261
11.792 11.646 11.533 11.319 11.266
11.803 11.655 11.544 11.322 11.309
12.194 12.457 12.134 11.347 11.345





11.262 11.291 10.963 10.724 10.874

11.618 11.555 11.367 11.119 11.141

0.234 0.311 0.302 0.201 0.153
fastest vs mean        
0.356 0.264 0.404 0.395 0.267


I'm going to draw some graphs later, this is just for you to have a quick look at. I've hilighted the standard deviation for 2013 Manchester world cup for both the men and the women, it's ... very interesting ... 

Also interesting is the SD for the Melbourne Worlds in 2012, which was even tighter in the top end than Manchester, but it was a world championship.



On the mend and reflections on Manchester World Cup

This time last week I was lying on a bed at the Austin hospital doped to the eyeballs on morphine waiting for surgery to repair a hernia.  Today I'm home, with a new belly button that looks like something out of an Alien movie (it will get better!) after spending the weekend doing what little I could to help at Hilton's sprint camp that we held at DISC.  I'm pretty tired, but am well and trully on the mend.  Jayne has been awesome, but I feel terrible (and you should see the looks I get!) when she loads up with rollers, backpack, bags etc and I saunter along with her, carrying nothing ... It won't last, in a few weeks I'll be carrying stuff again.  Live it up, eh?  heh ...

It's been a very interesting week in sprint cycling.  At the track world cup in Manchester, the mens sprint qualification times were simply stunning. Manchester is not Moscow, it's not a track where times need to be asterisk'ed out, it's a "real" track.  It's not summer there, it's coming into winter, so the conditions would not have been amazing for speed.

Have a look at this :


Place Number

F200 speed 100 100-200
1 193 FÖRSTEMANN Robert GER 9.799 73.48 4.838 4.961
2 254 DAWKINS Edward NZL 9.871 72.94 4.905 4.966
3 293 PHILLIP Njisane TRI 9.936 72.46 4.924 5.012
4 106 GLAETZER Matthew AUS 9.944 72.41 4.911 5.033
5 222 PERKINS Shane JAY 9.945 72.40 4.919 5.026
6 169 D'ALMEIDA Michaël FRA 9.947 72.38 4.938 5.009
7 221 LEWIS Peter JAY 9.957 72.31 4.944 5.013
8 195 NIEDERLAG Max GER 9.964 72.26 4.905 5.059
9 276 DMITRIEV Denis RUS 9.976 72.17 4.944 5.032
10 179 CRAMPTON Matthew GBR 10.015 71.89 4.955 5.060
11 134 NAKAGAWA Seiichiro CCT 10.046 71.67 4.986 5.060
12 164 GASCON Juan ESP 10.068 71.51 4.987 5.081
13 306 CANELON Hersony VEN 10.106 71.24 5.003 5.103
14 288 SAVITSKIY Valentin RVL 10.111 71.21 5.027 5.084
15 153 PTACNIK Adam CZE 10.112 71.20 5.003 5.109
16 160 LEVY Maximilian ERD 10.115 71.18 5.034 5.081
17 315 AWANG Azizulhasni YSD 10.115 71.18 4.979 5.136
18 129 BARRETTE Hugo CAN 10.118 71.16 5.006 5.112
19 206 ARCHIBALD Matthew HPS 10.125 71.11 4.981 5.144
20 152 KELEMEN Pavel CZE 10.136 71.03 4.999 5.137
21 158 BALZER Erik ERD 10.137 71.03 4.994 5.143
22 258 WEBSTER Sam NZL 10.143 70.98 5.000 5.143
23 265 ZIELINSKI Damian POL 10.152 70.92 5.022 5.130
24 183 KENNY Jason GBR 10.154 70.91 5.029 5.125
25 104 BULLEN Mitchell AUS 10.160 70.87 5.012 5.148
26 281 SHURSHIN Nikita RUS 10.167 70.82 5.048 5.119
27 208 MULLEN Eoin IRL 10.199 70.60 5.068 5.131
28 207 VELTHOOVEN Simon HPS 10.210 70.52 5.086 5.124
29 248 HOOGLAND Jeffrey NED 10.234 70.35 5.060 5.174
30 142 XU Chao CHN 10.239 70.32 5.064 5.175
31 235 NG Josiah MAS 10.247 70.26 5.056 5.191
32 311 OLIVA Alexander WAL 10.270 70.11 5.072 5.198
33 133 KAWABATA Tomoyuki CCT 10.284 70.01 5.064 5.220
34 269 ESTERHUIZEN Bernard RSA 10.294 69.94 5.116 5.178
35 264 SARNECKI Rafal POL 10.300 69.90 5.088 5.212
36 204 BRETAS Sotirios GRE 10.390 69.30 5.163 5.227
37 163 MORENO Jose ESP 10.395 69.26 5.138 5.257
38 246 BUCHLI Matthijs NED 10.405 69.20 5.130 5.275
39 308 PULGAR Angel VEN 10.437 68.99 5.155 5.282
40 213 CECI Francesco ITA 10.548 68.26 5.200 5.348
41 173 SIREAU Kévin FRA 10.573 68.10 5.103 5.470


The top 27 riders rode faster than 10.2s flying 200's.  To qualify in the top 16, you had to ride 10.115 and even then Azizul missed out.  9.9 didn't guarantee top 8!  This is not the Olympics or the world champs, this is just a world cup.  Jason Kenny, the 2012 Olympic champion, rode 10.154 and did not quailfy.  Marty Nothstein, who won at Sydney in 2000, with a 10.166s (fastest qualification time) would not have qualified for this world cup.  He wouldn't have made the cut.

I discussed this somewhat with John Beasley on the w'end (Malaysian track coach).  He's got Azizul up to 10.115 and Josiah at 10.247 over the last few months.  What's the huge change?  It's big gears.  The guys are so much stronger than they've been before and the obsession with small gears and high cadences is over.  I've personally seen Josiah riding very low 10's flying 200's at DISC recently on training wheels with minimal tapering, and he's mid 30's, he's the strongest he's ever been and also the fastest he's ever been. 

No-one is riding 90's anymore, they're all up in the high 100's or bigger.  We know Forstemann rode 114" at Cottbus when he rode 9.7 there a few months ago (~148rpm average for the 200m, outdoors on concrete).  This is a far, far cry from the "old" days of 160+rpm.  Why is this?  Is it a recent discovery?  I suspect a lot of it is increased specialisation, modern sprinters aren't doing the road stuff they used to do, at least, not nearly as much.  They're getting stronger in the gym, stronger on the bike and riding lower cadences where there's less overall contractions, so greater endurance.  It's possible to hit 73km/h on smaller gears, it's certainly been done, but it's very very hard to hold the speed on small gears, you just run out of neural capacity, or "too much revs!".  Put on a bigger gear, and as long as you're strong enough to get it going, you can go further at the same speed.

Very interesting indeed.

Will anyone break the world record, which was set at Moscow (9.572) at a normal track?  They're getting pretty close now ... and not as a one-in-a-million freak, but dozens of riders look capable of it.



Unexpected hurdle

Filed Under:


On Monday morning I went in to the Austin hospital to have am umbilical hernia repaired - it was all very sudden and unexpected and I'm on very light duties for the next six weeks, no lifting, no DISC motorcycling (G-forces not good for it).  The good news is it was a routine thing, nothing drastic. Lots of opiates for me for a few weeks and gradual recovery.  Back into things in late December.


Two amazing things about Hilton

Filed Under:

I work part time for Hilton Clarke.  Hilts is now 68 years old.  Most people, by the time they get to that age, are well and trully stuck in their ways of doing things.

Not Hilts.

Over the 5 years it's been now that I've been working for and with him, we've made some big changes to the Victorian sprint program.  Hilts keeps innovating and trying new things.  I hope that if I'm still doing this at his age, that I keep the open mind and ability to adapt and change that he has.  Further, I hope I keep the passion and generosity that Hilts has.  He's still driven to excell and has a burning desire to improve and his generosity is without peer.

If I'm still doing this in 36 years(!) I hope I have the same.



Even when they have it all

They want more!

Minor rant time.

Sprint is starved for competition.  Famished.  We get next to nothing.  Until the NJTS came along (and I, and a few other coaches, lobbied like mad to get more sprint-ish races included in it, thank you Max Stevens for listening) if you were a sprinter as a junior, you get two, maybe three or four if you're in Melbourne, chances a year to compete.  Club championships, state titles, metro/country/Vic Track Cup and nationals if you made it that far.  I'm going to take credit for my Summer Sprint Series as well, but that's only club stuff and we have 5 rounds a year.  So maybe, if you're in Melbourne, not including NJTS, you can, at most, have 9 chances to race sprints per year.  Nine.  Count them.

Enduros - HUNDREDS!  Clubs fall over themselves to offer junior tours, there's track racing two to three times a week or more for enduros, more road races, crits and other stuff than I can count.  Hundreds of opportunities to race.  The "sprint" races at the NJTS are not match sprints, they're short (2 laps) events and baby keirins that enduros can be competitive in.  The NJTS gives us (sprint coaches and talent ID people) a chance to see potential sprinters if they pop up from the default endurance setting that all clubs impose and maybe we get a chance to rescue these kids if we're lucky.  It gives the kids born with some sprint talent a chance to actually stand out in some racing before they give up and go play footy because they're all fast twitch and can't hang on up some hill somewhere because that's not how they're made. 

The NJTS program is weighted to the advantage of the sprinter? Take a step back and look at the big picture. Our sport is so massively, overwhelmingly biased to endurance that the suggestion is absurd.








Finding the girls

Success should not be by accident

Over the last few weeks I've had some time to think(!) and also some interesting discussions with parents, kids, fellow coaches etc on the topic of finding more girls and getting them racing.  In my case, sprint, but in general as well.

The few girls we have (who, lucky, are very talented) have been found mostly by accident or it's been a struggle for them to get involved.  I've had parents tell me that they've been to come and try days at DISC then mostly given a runaround when they expressed interest in going further by calling Cycling Victoria.  This is not CV's fault, the structure as it stands at the moment is that CV has to tell parents (or adults!) to "call your local club".  This can be quite a hit and miss approach, some clubs have better responses than others and it's then down to volunteers who may or may not have female cyclists as priorities.  So we miss some kids.  I suspect we miss a lot of kids. If we want a high peak and consistant international success, it is fundamental that we have a broad talent base.  We can't just bumble along hoping that volunteers will have the time and the motivation to do right by people who have already expressed an interest.

In retail, if someone walks into a shop, the battle is 90% won.  Sales people are just finishing it off.  We need to learn from this.  If a kid goes to a come & try day, or schools racing, or HPV racing; they're already interested, they've walked into the shop.  All we need to do is make eye contact and talk to them.  But to do that, we need to be there.  If you walk into a shop and there's no staff to help you, or if there is, they ignore you or wait for you to come to them, you're much more likely to walk out and go somewhere else.  The same applies to us and recruiting junior female cyclists (and male, but there's so many more of them that it's not such a critical issue).  I think we need a visable, friendly club representative, preferably female (because CV can't do it, politically and resourcefully) at every C&T at DISC, and where possible, at school cycling championships and major HPV events.  We shouldn't get lucky every now and then, we should structure for success.  It needs to be deliberate and planned and resourced.  We are letting kids slip through our fingers.  We need to stop it happening. 

Building development squads for kids already in the sport is the easy, sexy thing to do*.  Converting the kids who have shown an interest into kids who will have a go is the vital part. Not sexy, no big public relations coup for sponsors, but MUCH more important to the long term success of our sport locally and internationally.


* - not that it's not valuable, it is, but it's not going to get girls started in the first place.




Spin is done for 2013

Phew ... 162.5kg of mince beef ...

Thank you to everyone that attended our winter Spin program at Blackburn this winter.  Our last session was last night, 17 brave souls completed the grueling session and enjoyed the end of winter BBQ.

A very special thank you to our hard core regulars and long termers, Tom Leaper, Nic Mark, Mick and Bridge, Snibbo, Bev, Jarrod, Chris Dann.  And also to James Dann who ran the sprint group for me while I yelled encouragement at the enduros.

Next year, we'll be back!


What it takes

So YOU can race!

Remember, whenever you race, ALWAYS take the time to thank any vollies you see running it.  They've donated their time so you can have fun.  Oh, and BE COURTIOUS even if you get DQ'd for something.  Play nice, or no racey-racey ...




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