Cal Crutchlow may only have finished ninth in Sunday's Aragon MotoGP, but the Englishman's battle with grand prix legend Valentino Rossi and former 250cc world champion Hiroshi Aoyama was the main highlight of a processional race.

The trio spent most of the race swapping positions, with rookie Crutchlow eventually getting the better of both factory Ducati star Rossi and Gresini Honda rider Aoyama.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Crutchlow's stand-out pass was an outside move on Rossi into turn one and he crossed the finish line just 0.180sec ahead of Rossi and 0.345sec clear of Aoyama.

"I'm really pleased with how the race went today because I was back inside the top and having a really good and enjoyable fight with two of the best riders on the grid, who have had a lot of success in grand prix racing," said Crutchlow.

"What pleases me the most is that I could make up for the lack of speed on the straight in the corners because the Yamaha handles brilliantly and my Tech 3 Team gave me a really good bike today.

"But to hold off Valentino and Hiroshi at the end took a massive effort. I think if they'd started the final lap in front of me on the straight it would have been hard for me to slipstream.

"There are a lot of positives to take from this weekend because I've got back in the top 10 on a track I'd never seen before and beaten two guys with a lot more experience than me.

"I gained a lot of experience today riding with Valentino and that has given me a lot of confidence for the next few races."

Crutchlow's performance moved him up to 13th in the world championship rankings and was his 'bets ride of the year' according to team manager Herve Poncharal.

"I think it was the best ride of the year for Cal," said Poncharal. "Maybe not in terms of the final position, but the way he rode was fantastic. The start was difficult, but he never gave up and what was really good is that he was riding with Valentino and Hiroshi and he would have learned a lot from those two.

"Today he could battle with a nine times world champion and I'm sure that will do a lot for his confidence in the future. He didn't only race with them but he beat them and that makes it even more satisfying. With a better start it is not unrealistic to imagine he could have been with Bautista and Hayden, but ninth position is still a very positive result."

By contrast, team-mate Colin Edwards had a 150th MotoGP race to forget. The American qualified 15th - which became 14th on the grid after Rossi's pit-lane start - and finished the race in 13th and last.

"That certainly wasn't a great way to celebrate my 150th race in MotoGP," said Edwards. "We tried to get the bike right all weekend but we were pretty much chasing our tails the whole time. We were trying to improve the rear grip to compensate for the speed we lose on the straight and for the race we altered the weight distribution again. We put a lot of weight on the rear but it never really worked.

"After about five laps the grip just went down and I wasn't expecting it to drop off that quickly. Once that happened I couldn't stay in that group I was in and I just went backwards.

"If somebody gave me 10 million Euros to do a 1.51 right now, there is no way I could do it. The last two races have been pretty tough, so we'll get our heads together and try and come up with a solution for Japan and aim to be fighting back in the top 10 where I have been all season."