Making his MotoGP return from a badly broken collarbone, Cal Crutchlow mounted a surprise challenge for the front row in qualifying at Assen on Friday.

The grand prix rookie blasted into a shock third position with less than a minute of the qualifying hour remaining, only to be bumped down to sixth after last-gasp gains by factory rivals.

The Monster Yamaha tech 3 rider, who broke his collarbone in qualifying for the previous Silverstone round two weeks' ago, will thus start from sixth position for the third successive race.

Incredibly, Crutchlow lapped just 0.2sec slower than reigning world champion and factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo.

"I was on the front row right at the end and it just got taken away, but I'm still really happy because I came here and didn't think I'd even be riding at this stage of the weekend," said Cal.

"I thought I'd only be able to do a few laps because of my collarbone injury and here I am fighting for the front row. I think I went for it on my last soft tyre a little bit too early to be honest but I can't be disappointed. Sixth seems to be my position on the grid at the moment because that's the third race in a row I've started from that place.

"My shoulder is really sore now too. The 90-minute session this morning followed by another hour this afternoon means I can really feel the collarbone throbbing. The fast changes of direction are the biggest issue.

"Flicking the bike through some of those fast kinks is hard enough when you've got full strength, so for me having a big operation to plate my collarbone only last week, it is really difficult. To be honest I hope it rains for the race tomorrow, but I'll try my best for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team whatever the weather."

Team-mate Colin Edwards, who has had just one week of extra recovery time for his broken collarbone, will start from eighth on the grid.

Muscle damage around his right ribcage, suffered in the crash at Catalunya three weeks ago, proved most problematic for the 37-year-old today.

"Riding in the dry made it pretty tough on my body today," said the Texan. "With the extra 45 minutes this morning, it has been physically demanding. The collarbone I broke in Catalunya is fantastic but the damaged muscles around my ribs have hurt a lot today and made it hard to change direction.

"We changed a couple of things to the bike to make it more comfortable for me. The bike is more stable and easier to change direction and while it might not be an advantage for the lap time, it has certainly helped my ability to push more to my normal level. My lap times aren't terrible but in certain parts of the track it is hard to push. I just don't have the strength.

"Some of those changes of direction, you're flat-out in fifth gear and I just don't have the power to throw the bike around. Taking a deep breath was hard because of the ribs, but we got today out of the way and I might wake up tomorrow morning and miraculously feel better.

"I doubt that will be the case, but the race is a different thing. When the lights go out and the adrenaline kicks in, I probably won't feel a thing and I'll be giving it my maximum in the wet or the dry."

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