Mark Cavendish, the only member of Britain's successful track cycling team to fail to win a medal at the Beijing Olympics, has hit out at the nation's obsession with the Games.
Cavendish went to Beijing as the Madison world champion alongside Bradley Wiggins, but the duo's competitions earlier in the year left their energy levels depleted and they finished ninth.
The 23-year-old from the Isle of Man had won four Tour de France stages in July, while Wiggins had already won golds in the individual pursuit and team pursuit by the time he competed in the Madison.
Cavendish, who will start the Giro d'Italia on Saturday, complained that he failed to receive the backing he deserved from the British team.
"There's a lot of people that didn't win a medal, it's what I sacrificed to go there that hurt the most," he told BBC television.
"For me, the Olympics is not even in the top 10 of what you can achieve. It is quite important as a British person, not necessarily as a cyclist."
Cavendish cemented his reputation as the quickest sprinter in road racing with victory in the 100th edition of the Milan-San Remo race in March, putting him among the favourites for this year's green jersey for the sprints or points champion in the Tour de France.
"This year already I've won six or seven races. If you asked a cycling enthusiast, they would say it overshadows what the Olympics is for an endurance rider," he said. "But you ask the average member of the public in Britain and they'll look at you like you're mad."
Cavendish had vowed he was "finished" with track cycling after Beijing, but he returned to the velodrome at the Track World Championships in Poland in March and is set to seek Madison gold in London 2012 alongside fellow Isle of Man native Peter Kennaugh.
© AFP 2009