The Spaniard has become a savvier rider with age.

He did admit, however, that his contribution to the furore over Froome’s commanding lead had piled further scrutiny on Britain’s victor of the Yellow Jersey in 2013. “I said my maximum heart-rate is only 170”, said the Kenyan-born rider. “Sometimes, when you change the rhythm, it can produce a surprise”.

“Today, there was a lot of headwind and it was hard to attack a team like Sky, who impose such a steady pace”.

Froome is not on his radar.

Armstrong attracted a large media scrum, but few members of the public to the ride. “He’s not on the starting line with us”, said the 30-year-old Briton.

Armstrong makes no apology for his comments on Twitter.

It was Sagan’s fourth second-place in this year’s Tour de France.

It emerged on Wednesday that Peter Verbeken was a soigneur (carer) for Postal, including on the 1999 Tour. A day after Froome and his Sky team mates hammered their rivals, there was a truce in the peloton.

Froome was “feeling the effects” of his stage 10 win at La Pierre-Saint-Martin and had Thursday’s final Pyrenees stage, the 195km from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille on his mind.

Lance Armstrong admitted he was to blame for the negative speculation surrounding Tour de France overall leader Chris Froome of Team Sky.

He adds, “There’s a huge need to raise awareness about rhino and elephant poaching”, and that painting rhinos on his bike is “a great way to highlight their plight”.

The 195-kilometer (121-mile) trek to the Plateau de Beille, which draws cross-country skiers when it snows, took the Tour up four increasingly high ascents, 53 kilometers (33 miles) in total.

Some competitors in the race this year have reacted to Armstrong’s presence with indifference.

Lance Armstrong made a defiant return to cycling with ex-Wolves star Geoff Thomas asking: “Why shouldn’t I be here?”

“I know what it’s like for a guy like Chris to be in the middle of a Tour to deal with the constant questions, which of course he is”. “I am not a specialist”. “You’re leading the Tour by three minutes [2:52], that’s impressive”.

Many race observers say Froome has been so dominant that it looks unlikely that he will lose the three-week race when it finishes on Paris’ Champs-Elysees on July 26.

“I’m a van Garderen fan”. “I think it’s really disappointing”, the 2013 champion said.

The ride, organized by former England global soccer player Geoff Thomas’s charitable foundation, covers each Tour stage a day before it happens. Froome will be looking to his teammates to control the race, making sure no one threatens his lead by joining a breakaway of riders ahead, while he tries to conserve energy for the mountains.

Despite his spectacular fall from grace in the cycling world, Armstrong has returned to the site of the gruelling contest to ride two stages in two days for charity.