A NEW cycling event in Yorkshire could become one of the biggest events in the sport, it has been said.

Following the success of Yorkshire hosting the Grand Depart, with millions of spectators turning out to celebrate the arrival of the Tour de France across the county, tourism chiefs have announced a new annual cycling event for the county - and not ruled out staging the Grand Depart of the Tour de France again.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: "When we first bid for the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, I promised Christian Prudhomme that we would deliver the grandest Grand Départ the Tour has ever seen. It gives me immense pride to say that we made good on that promise."

Asked whether Welcome To Yorkshire would bid to host the Tour again in future, Mr Verity said: "It's too early to say at this point, but who knows?"

Mr Verity said: "We have done a deal with ASO to get the Tour de Yorkshire, which will be one of the biggest cycle races in the sporting calendar and will start next year, to run for who knows how long. All the top riders will compete. It won't be as big to start off with, but the plan is for it to be as big as possible."

Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour, today said the Yorkshire Grand Depart had been "beyond our wildest dreams" and hinted at a possible return.

He said earlier: "I work for the Tour, but I also love the Tour, and I have seen that the people of Yorkshire love the Tour too. I can see the Tour in their hearts, and in their eyes. For that, I say thank you to Welcome to Yorkshire, and to everyone in Yorkshire who has made this Grand Départ so very, very special.

"What you did was good for Yorkshire, for sure, but what you did was also good for the Tour. When you said you would deliver the grandest Grand Départ it was the truth, you have raised the bar for all future hosts of the Tour."