MEERBEKE, Belgium — Lance Armstrong can still rattle and shake with the best on the backbreaking cobblestones, a key lesson to take into this summer's Tour de France.
At 38, Armstrong was a factor until very deep in Sunday's Tour of Flanders, a one-day classic which he saw as a training run while others raced it as their biggest challenge of the season.
"I felt better than I felt all year," Armstrong said after finishing the 262-kilometre trek through northern Flanders only 2:35 behind the winner, Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara. In 27th spot, he was the top finisher of his Team Radioshack.
The seven-time Tour de France winner used the classic with its long stretches of cobblestones as preparation for the third stage of the Tour de France, which will include seven cobblestone sectors for 13 kilometres, with one only 10 kilometres from the finish line.
Ride cobblestones well and you will still not win the Tour de France there. Ride them badly, however, and you might lose it there.