A master of strategy after all these rides, Lance Armstrong did what he had to: He stayed out of trouble.
Armstrong negotiated the second stage of his farewell Tour de France on Sunday, finishing safely in the pack and in 63rd place. Crucially, he avoided danger by steering clear of sprinters jostling for position on a day when several fell, and Belgium's Tom Boonen was the winner.
Armstrong, bidding for a seventh straight Tour de France title, had no intention of trying to win the 112.5-mile run from Challans to Les Essarts, raced in the sunshine in the Vendee region of western France.
Two years ago, Armstrong was part of a 35-man pileup on a similarly flat stage early in the Tour, and was lucky to get away with scratches and bruises.
"These finishes still scare me. I won't miss them," Armstrong said. "Everybody's a bit nervous, everybody's cracking a little bit."
Boonen won in just under four hours, beating Norway's Thor Hushovd and Australia's Robbie McEwen in a hair-raising dash to the line.
Armstrong is in second place overall and two seconds behind fellow American Dave Zabriskie of Team CSC, who had the yellow jersey for a second day.
Armstrong thanked his teammates for keeping him out of danger on a day when 10 riders fell.
"My legs were terrible," Armstrong joked. "Actually, I feel pretty good. I figure the faster I pedal, the faster I can retire."
Boonen was delighted with his victory.
"It was a sprint for the strong riders, so it was an advantage for me," he said. "It was not a problem."
With less than 1.9 miles remaining, French rider Samuel Dumoulin fell. Caught in the middle of a group of riders, Dumoulin lost control of his bike and it wobbled beneath him, pushing him out of the saddle and forcing others to swerve around him. His left knee was gashed but he is expected to keep riding.
According to Tour race rules, if a rider falls with less than three kilometers (1.9 miles) remaining, those in the main pack are awarded the same time as the winner. In Armstrong's case, this meant he received the same time as Boonen.
German Jan Ullrich failed to gain any ground on Armstrong but his 19th-place finish was an improvement on Saturday's time trial.
Although the German is still feeling the effects of crashing through the rear window of his team car during training Friday, Armstrong believes Ullrich remains a threat.
"If you go into the back of the car and shatter the window with no helmet on that's got to affect you," Armstrong said. "He'll be better in a few days' time."