Cycling Canada MTB Camp update

On Sunday Feb 19th I travelled down to Victoria to kick off the MTB race season. Firstly, I caught up with the brother for a day before arriving at Bear Mountain Resort for the Cycling Canada National MTB team camp on the 20th. This group is like a second family and I have many good friends here, so that makes this trip special. 

Training with a group of motivated, inspiring and like-minded riders is special. We’re fortunate to be staying at Bear Moutain and having accommodation and food supplied while we put in work on the bike and “classroom-style” learning and work each day. We were greeted with the snow the last three mornings and today it was actually quite fun to be sliding around in it. 

Saturday is when the season kicks off with a Canada Cup. I’m excited to see how well I did my homework this winter. Until then, we’ll keep on keepin’ on, and make snowmen of course. Photos below from the trip so far:

Love new bike day. New Pivot Mach 429SL showed up the other day and it felt fitting that its friends, NEXT crank and Turbine dropper by Race Face, kept it company. 

Bear Mountain Resort is embracing cycling quite heavily and making us feel at home

Those Schwalbe Tires are loving the Victoria trails, I mean mud, I mean hero dirt.

Photo: Kevin Light 

Photo: Kevin Light

Surprise snowstorm on Day 6 couldn’t keep us inside.

We’ve been given the “Player’s Lounge”

Our team room is in good company with Gretzky jersey on the wall.

Front door view at Bear Mountain

Team rock climbing evening. Booked in for 2 hours and all the weak upper bodied cyclists were tired in about 15 minutes. We pushed on and made the most of it watching the chameleon Evan Mcneely in the picture above. 

 

Schwalbe Tires

It’s with great pleasure that I announce a relationship with Schwalbe Tires for 2017. A huge part of the bike, and the only part of the bike touching the ground, is tires. I’m confident in Schwalbe and excited to be part of their team for this season. Reliability and performance are key when racing a mountain bike and Schwalbe will have me covered. 

Thank you to everyone involved at Schwalbe for the support. 

 

La Bresse World Cup Recap

World Cup racing is savage. No matter where you are in the field it’s a fight – sometimes literally. Not that I can account for racing anywhere near the front end of an elite men’s WC, I’ve just watched them and been beaten by them. Albstadt and La Bresse marked my twentieth and twenty-first WC races. I’ve raced multiples as a junior, under-23 and now elite; the races have only gotten harder and somehow that continues to lure you in more.

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There’s always a lure to come back and conquer when races don’t go well. The racing is crazy at the back of the field. Apart from from the speed there are bikes, fists, feet and people flying all the over the place.

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Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

A WC start goes something like this: gun goes off, front guys start, back guys wait about 5 sec to even clip in, 150 guys are sprinting around you, one guy brakes and a chain reaction begins and someone usually crashes, everyone come almost to a hault swerving around a wrecked person or stand-still, guys are sprinting into or over you, some guy always goes for a stupid pass and catches his bar in the fencing and eats $hit, hopefully you swerve around him, then comes the bottleneck at the first single-track. Now you’re walking, running if you’re lucky, bikes are above rider’s heads to tomahawk past everyone else, then you get in a pushing battle with some other racer (yes, aggression in spandex), and now you get back on your bike and start riding again. That’s only the first 5 minutes.

Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team)

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

If you’re like me, you get past by 125 lbs dudes floating up the climbs – only to then catch them on the descent and get held up. It’s ends up being an uphill battle both ways. Sometimes you get a clear trail for a bit and ride your rhythm, which is hopefully at your potential. Usually there’s 5-10 guys just up the road to chase and the same amount just behind chasing you down. Every inch is fought for in these races. In North America someone can crash, flat, mechanical, and dab all over and usually still be in the race. In Europe or at a WC you can be passed by 4 guys by simply dabbing. A flat tire can mean not finishing the lead lap. A chain break or a start crash, well I can tell you all about that.

Bouchard beats Vogel for 20th

Congrats to Canadian Leandre Bouchard for 20th

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

The first finish of the day is making it through the start loop unscathed with a working bike. There isn’t any friendliness in the back of the field to other races, unless maybe you’re country mates or proper buds. I’ll always give riders the respect, as we’re chasing the same thing, but as soon as someone gets out of line and tries to get physical I’m confident my clydesdale weight and size will only backfire their plans.

At Albstadt I had the unique opportunity to, once again, be DFL after only 100 M when my chain broke. Whatever it was I was ready to take on the ‘how many people can I pass game’ again. I hate quitting and will do everything possible in a race to continue. This was just a test of that. It was a 400 M run to the pits while being cheered on by fans with pretzels in their hands (which I was jealous of). I was reminded with this scenario that the bike community is amazing. People from Scott/3Rox, the Canadian National Team, and Aaron Schooler (my personal helper for the day) all came to help once I ran into the pits. I set a new personal passing record of 53 riders. $hit happens sometimes and you just have to make the best of it. I really wanted to workup the appetite for my post-race schnitzel and Milka bar.

Bike racing is tough. Winning the personal battles for me means just as much on days like that.

Evan Guthrie (Norco Factory Team)

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

In La Bresse I just needed to get past 250 M without issues and that was a win. That happened. The legs didn’t show up this day but with one of the best courses to date. This course had people in, on, and around every nook and cranny yelling and screaming. It was only natural to to get buck wild on the descents with chains saws revving (Long live Chainsaw) and bells ringing. Make sure to check out the women’s race – it was incredible to watch those ladies throw down. The Frenchman – Julian Absalon – schooled the men’s field to win on home soil.

All smiles, Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing XC) and Catharine Pendrel (Luna Pro Team)

Both Emily (L) and Catharine (R) had amazing races to finish 3rd and 2nd.

Photo: Rob Jones – www.canadiancyclist.com

Now I’m back in Horseshoe Valley, Ontario for the nest two weeks for some Canada Cup races. More updates to follow.

 

Photo essay from the trip:

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Sea Otter Classic Recap

That marks the fourth year in a row I’ve attended the Sea Otter Classic, all of which have been with Norco Bicycles. Every year gets better in many ways. I think I’m learning the “how to” racing of The Sea Otter Classic. It’s a weird race and this year even more so with the fresh cut grass and pavement course. Essentially the course was half on the Laguna Seca raceway and the other half was on a side hill. One that would resemble a hay field where the farmer cut the grass but has yet to drive around to pick up the cuttings to make the hay. So we rode around on grass, dust and the odd rock that was thrown in.

Short track video highlight by Antoine Caron: https://vimeo.com/163086194

Cross-country video highlights by Dirtwire tv: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHwIRF8qRjk

It was fast and furious just like every race. Friday the short track race – a full on~30 minute, multi lap race – started off the weekend for us cross-country racers. It’s sometime a lottery with having 100+ guys all fighting to be at the front of the race. I got a decent start but being around 20th after lap one means a lot of work is ahead. Slowly I leap-frogged forward for the first 3/4 of the race until I finally made it to the front group of 6, which then became 7. Once making it there I was gassed from chasing and followed them for half a lap. Todd Wells slid out in front of me and I rode straight into him and laid my bike on the ground, not a wipeout just a slow speed set down on a corner. I was up quick, back on the bike (with a twister bar) and the lead group was now up the road and I didn’t have the juice to make it back up. I used those bullets originally to make contact.

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Photo: Jonathan Duncan

Three of us came together and chased the leaders for the final 5 laps. I made my move just before the final turn to sprint ahead for 7th, just within seconds of the leaders crossing the line. It was a great race and even harder when you’re 3 against 6 chasing into the wind. This was a great way to start off the weekend.

Short track recap on Pinkbike: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/short-track-xc-sea-otter-classic-2016.html

The team rested up that afternoon before coming into the XC race hot and heavy. The race start at Sea Otter is always crazy and it’s taken me four years to finally figure it out. Riding behind some slower guys through the “trails” and grassy corners opened a gap to the lead group which took me two laps to get get back to before they lit up some fireworks of attacks and after making a massive effort to bridge it wasn’t quite feasible to follow them.

All photos below are by Chris Vezina (Instagram: vezina11)

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The start is always on the famous Laguna Seca Raceway

From then it was another solo mission just behind the lead group. Each lap they were within spitting distance by the climb but once they starting all attacking each other to lead into the “trails” they would shot forward. I was like a yo-yo going back and forth behind that group. I’ll quickly explain the course as half pavement and half was on fresh cut grass. Imagine a farmer was about to hay his field, so he cut all the grass but before he picked up the hay into bails it was spread everywhere. That is what us mountain bikers dream of (insert sarcasm here).

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From 50 ft wide on the pavement track to single file. This is where the cluster happens in racing.

Slowly I bridged up to my teammate Andrew L’esperance by the last lap and was able to squeak by him to take 12th. He followed up in 13th and Peter Disera came in 14th. Evan Mcneely had a tough day and came in a bit further back. Haley Smith finished a solid 12th in the women’s race. Almost every one of the Norco riders pushed out a personal best results for US racing.

Cross-country recap and photos: http://www.pinkbike.com/news/xc-battle-sea-otter-2016.html

Now we head to Australia for the opening round of the World Cup series for April 24th.

Canadian rider interviews: http://pedalmag.com/sea-otter-interviews-with-pendrel-bouchard-smith-disera-fleury-beaumont-rochette-lesperance-glassford/

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First lap gunning.

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Following Mr Geoff Kabush. He won the short track and has many wins to his name at the Sea Otter Classic. Geoff is someone I look up to and have learnt a ton from over the years. Always a honour if I get to race near him.

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Andrew “Lespy” L’esperance represented the team up front all race.

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Deep in the pain cave.

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Peter Disera went on to finish 14th and the following day he won the road circuit race with his H&R Block (Norco associated) team. What a stud he is.

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There was dust…

Season opener this weekend

With the first race of the season approaching this Saturday March 5th, its been crunch time on the bike in Victoria this past week. I’ve been down training while at my brothers place and joining the national team on some rides. After an amazing winter at home it feels good to be back on the bike. Its been rewarding feeling the benefits of all the winter cross-training on the bike so soon.

With only 3 days on the MTB this year, before last week, it was great to sharpen the skills and get used to going hard again(race pace) – something I haven’t done since last October at the final Enduro World Series. Not saying I haven’t been training hard, because I’ve been training really hard since November, but not having done that race-specific high end work yet.

The whole Norco Factory Team is in town and we’re on our new Revolvers and looking to shake things up at this Canada Cup. We’re excited to be showcasing our new bikes, new sponsors and long-standing sponsors to start off this 2016 Olympic season.

Here’s a few photos below from the past weeks training:

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Ross Durance rd is in my top-5 best roads to road ride
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Legs are out of winter hibernation. Leg hair replaces leg warmers here.

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Team Norco: Peter “Petey D” Disera, Evan “Mcsneaky” Mcneely, and Andrew “Lespy” L’esperance. Missing our gal Haley “Hunter” Smith in this photo.

 

Crankworx Canada Cup

Crankworx is an amazing festival and one that always reminds me why I love to ride bikes. This year the Norco Factory XC team was represented by Evan “Mcsneaky” Mcneely and Andrew “Lespy” L’Esperance. After a very full two days of travel after the Windham World Cup, which consisted of flying from New York to Kelowna on Monday and driving to Whistler on Tuesday, myself and the boys settled in for a couple good sleeps and course preparations.

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Chris Vezina Photo

This was the last big xc race of the season, the last chance to race and show the form, and a chance to redeem after a poor World Cup only 4 days before. Norco came in with Peter Disera leading the overall Canada Cup series and Mcneely in second. The pressure was on for us to perform and take that leaders jersey home, again. We also brought 3 guys and knew we could put everyone on the podium.

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Chris Vezina Photo

Lespy blitzed the first lap and it took about 10 minutes for my legs to come around after they were a little slow-going in warm up. From there I knew it was going to be a good day. By midway through lap 2/5 I had a little gap and was pushing forward. I won my first Canada Cup here in 2006 as a U-17 Cadet Expert and I wanted to win this one, badly. I usually pride myself on not flatting or getting mechanicals because, in my opinion, it’s a reflection of how you’re riding that triggers those issues, unless you have a fat nail in your tire or a part fails.

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Chris Vezina Photo

And then it happened, the flat tire. While my back wheel slid out on a corner and a divot in the rock face caught the sidewall of my rim, it flattened so much the tire wasn’t able to stay beaded and the air was lost. Not a tire failure by any means but my fault for charging hard. I raced with a saddle bag and tube, as this was a rocky race. Changed the tube and fell to 9th or 10th. In the next half lap I picked up two spots before pulling into the pits and doing a wheel change. Back to 10th. The fire was fuelled and I took off, pulling all the way back to 3rd at the finish. It truly was a great day on the bike. Shit happens though and you make the best of it. I did get drug tested after and completed one of my life goals of giving a beer-coloured pee sample. Small wins.

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Chris Vezina Photo

It was important to finish the season racing the way I know I should be. The excitement continued with a couple days of riding trail bikes around Whistler, going out on the town and riding the lifts. Monday I did my first Grouse Grind before visiting Norco HQ and Jay Hoots’ bike park in Hope, BC.

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Norco’s Factory Racing DH team and Team Norco International were out in full force and making podium appearances in almost every event at Crankworx. It was a great time time to be part of the Norco family.

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Now, we switch bikes to bigger squishy ones for some Enduro racing this fall. I’m back over to Europe to take on the final two Enduro World Series races in Spain and Italy.

I can’t say thank you enough or show my appreciation for all the support I’ve received this year. The support network in key to success.

Norco News: http://www.norco.com/news/2015/08/team-news-crankworx/

Results: http://pedalmag.com/canada-mtb-cup-xc4-whistler-results-final-standings/

http://canadiancyclist.com/dailynews.php?id=29979&title=canada-cup-xc-5-whistler

Chris Vezina photos: https://cndkids.smugmug.com/Sports/Cycling/2015-Whistler-Canada-Cup/n-Wh2cnh

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Riding the park with Jay Hoots

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Hoots Park

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Top of the World, Whistler peak chair.

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Blackcomb riding with Evan, Andrew, Geoff Kabush, Peter Glassford and Amanda Sin.

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Elite men and women podium.

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Happened to find a girl wit with same shirts as our team(not pictured in them).

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Chris Vezina Photo

Bonelli US Cup Recap

The first big race of the season has come and gone and did it ever prove to be a tough one. Early last week when I was departing St George for Newbury Park I took on a pretty good case of food poisoning. Never experienced that before and I can say with confidence it put any sickness or flu I’ve had to shame. I have never felt so smashed and weak. After a sleepless night of bringing up bodily fluids I had to spend the day driving. Luckily Mrs. Catharine Pendrel drove me, in my car, to Vegas before she caught a flight and I snagged some shuteye. A few more interstate road side sleeps, a downtown LA detour and a few traffic jams later I was back at my favourite California location: Vezina Training Camps(My buddy Mckays families home).

The week was spent recovering and regaining strength. I had some excitement building up my new Norco Bicycles Revolver( top secret! ).

First off congrats to all the Canadians. It was a Canada-strong day with Emily Batty and Catharine Pendrel finishing 1-2 in the Pro women and Norco Factory teammate Haley Smith finished 12th. Raphael Gagne and Max Plaxton went 1-2 in the Pro men and teammate Peter Disera 30th.

Saturday came around quick and the first UCI(International Cycling Union) sanctioned race in the US was upon us. There were over fifteen nations represented and a field of over 100 men. It was a blistering hot day around ~35 C. People almost melted out there.

On a personal note it was an all right race, a very tough race.  With not being at full strength it is hard to know how much it affected me, though I was able to ride with everything I had on the day and turn it into a positive race. Not being able to go over the red zone on the first lap allowed me to settle in and ride a steady race while I picked off guys who may have paid for early efforts in the heat. Finishing 26th in far less than what I expect of myself, especially with my current form, but when I look at the big picture and how I rode the race, it was all I had, gave my all and its only March. It’s crazy to see how people didn’t even get to start the last lap because they were pulled after not racing within 80% of the winners time. It’s a positive to know that on a day when not at your current potential, you can still ride fairly strong.

Instead of taking part in the Sunday short track cross-country race, I opted to train and recover for better luck this coming weekend at the Fontana City US Cup. My buddy Mckay, who is probably the fittest downhill racer I know, took part in the Pro Men Super D on Saturday evening(which he won!) and his first cross-country race on Sunday morning. He raced category 2 19-24 age group cross-country race, which he also won(!) – a major accomplishment and something I was excited to have watched after training with him a lot this year. I think maybe a split DH/XC racer might be in order…

Report from CanadianCyclist.com: http://www.canadiancyclist.com/dailynews.php?id=29150&title=us-cup-bonelli-park-report-photos-and-results

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All photos by: Chris Vezina – http://cndkids.smugmug.com/Sports/Cycling/2015-US-Cup-at-Bonelli-Park/n-jtMtHq

 

“Let’s all be friends”

‘Tis is the time of year where the snow flies and we transition to winter sports in order to keep fit. Just before the being snow came down I was able to get out for an awesome day of riding with local DH ripper, Anthony Evans, and we drifted berms and had a grand ‘ol time.

 

Keep a eye out in the future with some blogs on “Let’s all be friends”. I’m trying to showcase how cross-country and downhill/freeride/enduro can all ride and train together for the benefit of both parties. We both posses skills that the other disciplines could use, so why not help each other out and be friends!

 

We all have a passion for riding bike, so let’s share that passion!!

 

Photo’s by: Mike Kirk

 

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Sudbury Canada Cup Recap

Round 3 of the Canada Cup series took place in Sudbury, ON yesterday. I finished up with my third podium over the three races, this time in 5th.  Ontario has a big cross-country cycling scene, which is one reason I love to race out here. The atmosphere is great, the support is great and you’re likely to have a pretty darn good time.

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Last Monday I flew into Sault St Marie, ON to spend a few days training and be there for my team, Norco Bicycles, annual demo at the Velorution bike shop. I did the same last year and was excited to make the trip once again. Jan Roubal, who runs the shop, is a animal on the bike and joined me for intervals while being my tour guide one of the days.

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A few days prior to the race were spent in Sudbury with the full Norco gang after we’ve spent the better part of 6-weeks without any gatherings.

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Race prep as usual was the recipe leading into the Sunday race. The course was interesting with hardly any climbing and continual bumps and rough riding through the rocky/rooty terrain of the Canadian Shield. The body feels quite beat up this morning, but totally worth it.

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Missing from the mens race were: Max Plaxton, Geoff Kabush, Raphael Gagne and Kris Sneddon. You could say the biggest names of the elite men in Canada. With many prepping for next weekends National Championships at home, this was my tune-up training after not racing for quite some time.

Elite Men podium

Photo: Rob Jones @ Canadiancyclist.com

It was a humid day out under cloudy skies with a chance of showers. Overnight rain helped make for some slick portions throughout the course, which caused some havoc throughout the race. Our field was slowly split up due to some riders mistakes and crashes in the conditions.

First lap teammate Evan Mcneely and myself were riding with the front group which also consisted of: Derek Zandstra, Cam Jette and Leandre Bouchard. I couldn’t quite hang onto this group with the how the body was working on the day.

Faded back and rode with Trek Canadas Mitch Bailey. This guy was fun to ride with! We worked well together, which kept me motivated and help me pull out the best effort I could for quite some time. Huge thanks to him for doing some monster pulls out there. Plus my Honey Stinger gels from Planet Foods were working wonders!

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Continued on and caught Leandre Bouchard with 1.5 laps to go in the 6 lap race. Leandre and I got away from Mitch going into the last lap. Leandre squeaked past a rider into one of the single track sections and a gap opened that was, at the time, unable to be closed back down. Fought tooth and nail, or cross-eyed with jello-like legs to get him.

Crossed the line in 5th, which is a massive improvement from a poor 14th place finish last year. This also marks the most consistent Canada Cup series for me.  Now time to focus on next weekends National Championships, where I will take on the elite mens race for the first time after graduating from the under-23 ranks.

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Norco Factory Team results below.

Elite Men:

Evan Mcneely – 3rd

Peter Disera – 9th

Andrew Watson – 10th

Andrew Lesperance – 18th

Elite Women:

Haley Smith – 6th

Cayley Brooks – 23rd

Report from CanadianCyclist: http://www.canadiancyclist.com/dailynews.php?id=28082

Photo Gallery from Canadiancyclist: http://www.canadiancyclist.com/photos.php?cc_event_id=452&cc_event_subcategory_id=402719

Massive thanks to my sponsors for their support:

Norco Bicycles

Granfondo Axel Merckx

Pro Source Irrigation Supply

Tree Brewing

The Bike Barn

Planet Foods

Dissent Labs

Along with the many others who support in a private way, family and friends. So many generous people help make this cycling lifestyle a reality. Thank you to them and everyone that is apart of this wonderful journey!

Special shout-out to Granfondo Axel Merckx which took place yesterday in Penticton, BC. A wonderful sponsor of mine and an event I was really looking forward to this year, but unfortunately there was a conflict with this Canada Cup. All the reports sounds the event went amazing and weather was hot at ~38 C. I missed the kids Piccolofondo the most though. Seeing a few hundred little ones riding around on run bikes, training wheels and streamers hanging off their bars is something special. I had the privilege of riding with those kids the previous two years and hope to be back out next year!

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‘McNeely the danish monster’

 

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Lori Bailey Photos below:

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