Casey Stoner said an arm issue caused his slump from first to third in the Qatar Grand Prix - but still felt he had proved he would be the man to beat in MotoGP this year.
The defending champion led most of the Losail race until an arm pump problem slowed his pace and allowed Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa to come past.
Stoner said the physical issue had been present for most of the distance, even though it was only in the final few laps that it became unmanageable.
"It started really early on in the race - about a lap before I got in the lead, I already started feeling my arm going numb and my right arm tightening up," said the Honda rider.
"Once I got in the lead and I had the lead for a couple of laps, I really started to have problems with arm pump. I lost all my grip, I lost all the pressure.
"So I started just to smooth things down and not ride so aggressively as I normally do.
"This helped for a long time and we were still able to run a pace to pull away from everyone - which was really good for us considering the last two sessions we had were a little difficult, in qualifying and free practice three."
Stoner admitted his late-race slump had been no fun.
"It was a little bit disappointing," he said. "I felt like a backmarker at the end there, getting in everybody's way and going that slowly.
"I didn't have any pace whatsoever. I couldn't hold on to the bike and couldn't do anything."
But he remained bullish about his Qatar performance and the rest of the season, pointing out that had he not struggled with arm pump, victory seemed guaranteed.
"We're very, very happy with third," said Stoner. "The way our pace and everything was in the race, it was just myself and my right arm that couldn't do the job today.
"We've shown that we're the fastest out there, so as long as we sort my right hand out then we'll be very confident for the rest of the season."