Andrea Dovizioso admitted he didn't ride at his best on Saturday afternoon but feels he has the pace to challenge at the front of the 28-lap French MotoGP race.

The Italian qualified second, half a second in arrears of pole-man Marc Marquez, after a two-race absence from the front row of the grid and said it was difficult to 'find the rhythm'.

"From the beginning from the first practice the pace of the bike was really good," said Dovizioso in the qualifying press conference. "We had a good balance. We were able to be fast and consistent in every practice.

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"Today in the qualifying it was quite difficult to get the rhythm after the wet. I wasn't so comfortable on the bike but it was my problem. The bike was very good and the lap time it wasn't really fast.

I was able to make a better lap time but I couldn't ride in a smooth way. Anyway, first row in MotoGP is really important. We are working in the right way this weekend."

Looking ahead to Sunday's race Dovizioso is possibly the only man that has been able to match Jorge Lorenzo's consistency. He was, he said, very confident for the 28 laps.

"I believe we have the pace. I believe we can fight for the podium. We have to see the competitor for 28 laps how they are. Because apart from Lorenzo it wasn't so easy to understand the pace of Marc [Marquez] and Valentino [Rossi].

My feeling on the bike is really good. In quite an easy way I was able to be fast. We have to see how consistent we will be for the race but we are there to fight."