A leisurely ride through rolling French hills, a bit of excitement at the finish to get the heart racing, a win for a teammate and another rung climbed in cycling's history books.
In all, a pretty good day at the Tour de France for Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong donned his 79th yellow jersey -- only Belgian great Eddy Merckx has more -- after holding his overall lead through the Tour's longest stage, 148.8 miles. Paolo Savoldelli, Armstrong's Italian support rider, won the stage Wednesday.
The Texan remained 2 minutes 46 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, Ivan Basso of Italy, and on course for his seventh straight Tour victory before retirement.
"It just keeps getting better," Armstrong said.
He tied Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the Tour in 1985, for the second-most yellow jerseys -- and should overtake him as he closes in on a seventh straight race victory on Sunday.
Armstrong came into this Tour with 66 jerseys and, if he holds the lead to Paris, will retire with 83. Merckx won 111 in the 1960s and '70s, but Armstrong has more Tour titles -- a record six compared with five for Merckx, Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Jacques Anquetil.
While Armstrong likes the company he's in, the mark isn't something he's thought much about.
"I have to be honest, I don't keep count of those things," Armstrong said this week. "I don't know if I deserve to pass a guy like Hinault."
He keeps some jerseys for himself, but says he gives others to his teammates, friends and supporters, or auctions them for charity.
Savoldelli's victory in the 17th stage was the third for Armstrong's Discovery Channel team at this Tour.
George Hincapie won in the Pyrenees and the squad also won the team time trial. Armstrong, who has always won at least one individual stage in his previous six Tour triumphs, has yet to do so this year -- but is eyeing victory in the final time trial on Saturday.
Savoldelli was part of a breakaway group that built a lead of more than 24 minutes over Armstrong's following pack.
"The only reason we sent guys in the break today was so we can work less and come out with another win," Hincapie said.
Savoldelli finished in 5:41:19, riding at average of 26.1 mph to claim his first Tour win. He joined Armstrong's squad from the rival T-Mobile outfit and appears to be relishing the experience.
Armstrong finished in a small group 22:28 behind.