Armstrong nears the finish of the climb to Mogollon in New Mexico
Lance Armstrong declared himself satisfied with his progress following his return to competitive racing after one month out with a broken collarbone.
The American, who suffered the injury in a fall in the Vuelta Castilla y Leon in Spain on 23 March, was eighth after stage one of the Tour of the Gila.
Armstrong, 37, is using the five-day New Mexico race to prepare for the Giro d'Italia, in May, and Tour de France.
He said: "I felt strong, the recovery's been good and it's working out."
The seven-time Tour de France winner required surgery to repair his shattered right collarbone and had a stainless steel plate and 12 screws inserted to stabilise it.
"There's so much hardware in there, it's not going to move," he said after the 94-mile opening stage from Silver City to Mogollon.
The race ended with a demanding three-mile climb into Mogollon and Armstrong rode largely in support of Astana team-mate and stage winner Levi Leipheimer.
And he admitted he was just pleased to be back racing.
"I've been better than I thought I would be," Armstrong said.
"You definitely feel stiff or blocked a little bit and that's to be expected. You can train those intense intervals but it doesn't replicate a race."
Astana general manager Johan Bruyneel, was also pleased with Armstrong's progress.
"He felt good and he did some work for Levi until Levi could launch his attack," said Bruyneel.
"But it was about getting the rhythm, the speed, getting some accelerations in a peloton."
Although Bruyneel made the trip, Armstrong is riding with Astana team-mates Leipheimer and Chris Horner as independents.
The trio will re-join the Astana team next week to fully prepare for next month's Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in July.
"We'll see how it goes here and we'll see how it goes in Italy," said Armstrong.
"Then the month of June we'll be in the States, training and preparing for the Tour de France.
"That's the granddaddy of them all. We'll go there and ride as fast as we can."