Marc Marquez heads into the French Grand Prix at Le Mans this weekend aware that he is not yet in the shape that carried him to six world MotoGP titles between 2013 and 2019.
"I'm not in a position either mentally or physically to challenge for the title today," the Spaniard told AFP.
"I have to manage myself constantly because if I go a little bit too hard physically, which means going faster, I fade," he said.
"I have to manage the races, which I didn't do before. I had the physique to start and finish at 100 per cent."
Marquez broke the humerus in his upper right arm last July in the opening race of the 2020 season at Jerez.
Nine months, and three operations, later, the Honda rider returned in Portugal on April 18 in the third race of this season.
"Those nine months were tough," he said. "The championship was progressing and I couldn't be there."
"You have to compensate for that anxiety with patience."
- 'Flip the switch' -
Marquez also missed the first two races of this season.
"When the doctor gives you the OK, your body wants to flip the switch and get on a bike."
"The doctor told me: 'I give you the OK at the bone level, to get on a motorbike, because there is no risk of it breaking again', which was what worried me most."
"I am aware of the risk I take every time I get on a bike, but I still have the same mentality as before. If you get scared, it's better to think things through and maybe take the decision to stay at home."
"My main objective is to get back to the way I was on the bike, to ride the way I want to ride, not the way the bike takes me."
"When I'm physically fit, the rest will follow."
Marquez finished seventh at Portimao. Two weeks later, at Jerez, he was ninth.
After four rounds, he has 16 points and is 15th in the World Championship.
"I've been able to finish the two races I've done in the top 10, which is not bad at all. But it's not the result we want," he said.
"I'm around 70 per cent," he said. "Next year I hope I can be at 100 per cent."
At 28, Marquez has six titles at the highest level of motorcycling, and is chasing Valentino Rossi, who has seven, and a second Italian great, Giacomo Agostini on eight.
"I've never set a number and I'm not going to do it now. I want to enjoy every year and let come what has to come."
"Every year I approach it with the mentality of aiming for a title, of aiming to win," he said. "I like the taste of victory."
- 'Not ruling anything out' -
Yet no clear challenger to his throne has emerged.
"Last year was a very inconsistent season from the riders," Marquez said.
"The champion, Joan Mir, was the most consistent, but he wasn't constantly in the leading positions. I think this year Fabio Quartararo and Francesco Bagnaia stand out...in speed and consistency."
Marquez has returned with MotoGP still racing under the cloud of Covid-19.
"It's a sad world championship," he said. "You are in the paddock, very quiet, because there is nobody there."
"I miss the fans, the hustle and bustle, all the action, the photos, the stress," he said.
Marquez has won at Le Mans three times in MotoGP and once in Moto2.
"Weekends at Le Mans are determined a lot by the weather," he said. "It's spring, which is when it rains."
"In the dry, I have a physical limitation," he said. "In the wet, I think it's not so physically demanding."
"I start the weekend a bit like the other races, without any clear objective, just to find myself," he said.
"See what happens with the weather and then we'll see on Sunday if we can be in the Top 10, win points, be in the Top 5."
"I'm not ruling anything out."