LEGENDARY cyclist Eddy Merckx believes Yorkshire is the "European capital of cycling".

So declared Sir Gary Verity when he attended Clifton Cycling Club's awards dinner as their special guest.

Sir Gary is the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire and the man who successfully campaigned to bring the Grand Depart of the Tour de France to the White Rose county, as well as help to create the Tour de Yorkshire race.

During the evening at York Pavilion hotel, he hailed both York and Yorkshire as a cycling haven, and backed clubs like Clifton CC to produce future Olympic champions.

A spokesman for Clifton CC said: "Sir Gary Verity was invited to help celebrate the annual awards dinner and highlight the achievements of the club.

"As Sir Gary put it, the next generation could be the next Olympic champions - just like the men from Clifton CC who represented Great Britain in the 1968 Olympics (namely Pete Smith, John Watson and Roy Cromick)."

He added: "During the evening, Sir Gary explained the reasons why he wanted to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire - helicopter rides, Michelin-star meals and a strong aspiration to bring glory back to Yorkshire.

"He believes York is a cycle city and has a lot going for it.

"Eddy Merckx, the most successful rider in the history of competitive cycling, also told him that he believes that 'Yorkshire is the European capital of cycling'."

Established in 1895, York-based Clifton Cycling Club caters for various abilities and offers a range of cycling including road racing, time trialling, Audax rides and social club rides. It is a British Cycling Go-ride Club, providing specific coaching and development for youngsters.

The club's award winners are listed.

Evening Spoco (Sporting course) time-trial series: Peter Hook 1st overall 198pts; Gill Dowson 1st woman 138pts; Jose Lewis 1st junior overall 126pts; Peter Pearson 2nd overall 195pts; Marcus Cockerill 2nd junior 119pts; Rebecca Dawes 3rd junior 66pts; Martin Willan best vet 50+ 184pts; James Milner best vet 50+ 171pts; David Short best vet 60+ 149pts; Keith Greenaway best newcomer 162pts.

Club Hill-Climb: Marcus Cockerill 1st overall & junior, 7 mins 02 secs; Lucy Lewis 1st woman, 8-00; Alistair Lewis 1st vet time, 7-14.

Clifton Road Challenge Series Awards 2017: Robert Osman.

Most Meritorious ride by a club member in 2017: Billy Geraghty.

Most improved club run rider in 2017: Alison Brewster.