After riding as hard as he could for fourth place in Saturday's Dutch TT, Colin Edwards stated that this year's MotoGP rider line-up is the toughest he's faced since joining the class in 2003.

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider dropped one position to sixth on the opening lap at Assen, but passed Chris Vermeulen on lap five and was exerting pressure on Andrea Dovizioso when the Italian crashed out on lap 11 of 26.

That left Edwards to claim fourth at the flag, six seconds behind Casey Stoner.

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The result equaled the Texan's best of the season so far and the 35-year-old is now just two-points from fourth placed Dani Pedrosa in the world championship standings.

"Finally I got a decent start and the longer wheelbase bike helped me get off the line," said Colin. "When Dovizioso came by I was biting my teeth to stay with him and keep the pressure on. But then I saw Dovizioso crash in front of me and just before that I'd had a moment with the right side of the front.

"I just held station after that because I could see I wasn't catching Stoner and I was holding Vermeulen off comfortably. My target was just to ride without making any mistakes and keep the momentum going.

"I rode my hardest but this year in MotoGP it is so hard just to get a podium. The field is so strong now and it's the hardest year I've ever had in MotoGP. I've ridden nowhere near as hard as that in the past and been on the podium.

"But I'm close to fourth in the championship and I was only beaten by the three fastest guys in the world today, so I'm happy with the job I'm doing. I can't wait for Laguna now and hopefully I'll be able to go better and get a podium for Monster, Tech 3 and all the American fans," he concluded.

"Colin was very impressive again and again he is the best non-factory rider, which considering how tough the competition is now, that is a great achievement," praised team manager Herve Poncharal.

The US Grand Prix takes place next Sunday.