‘YORKSHIRE’S greatest street party’ kicks off tomorrow as the Tour de Yorkshire returns to the county for its fifth outing.

To celebrate both the men’s and women’s races finishing in Bedale on Friday, a host of VIPs visited the Market Town today to soak up the pre-race atmosphere.

The Northern Echo:

Peter Dodd, commercial director of Welcome to Yorkshire, described the four days of the race as a fantastic occasion that brings huge benefits for the county .

He said: “It is an economic generator; last year over the four days it generated £98million for the Yorkshire economy and 12.6million people watched it on television around the world.

“Last year Richmond was a host town and by the Saturday night all 12 cash points in the town were empty.”

Mr Dodd added that the race was also about bringing people and communities together: “It is like Yorkshire’s greatest street party,” he said.

One man who has seen the Tour de Yorkshire from behind the handlebars is former race winner, Thomas Voeckler, who described his 2016 victory as one of the best moments of his career.

He added: “It is an atmosphere you can’t find anywhere else, it belongs to Yorkshire.

“If you go to Belgium it is a country of cycling but the atmosphere is different.

“Here people are really happy and smiling, you can see all the decorations in the towns of the race and when you are a rider you can feel this and you are happy to race in these conditions.”

The Northern Echo:

One group of young cycling fans from Mowbray School in Bedale were given the chance to meet Mr Voeckler along with Mr Dodd and ASO Race Director Christian Prudhomme.

They showed off their Makaton sign language skills to celebrate Bedale becoming only the second town in the world to be branded Makaton Friendly.

Pupils from the school will take part in a parade after the women’s race finishes on Friday afternoon and PE teacher Ben Noble said it will be a proud moment.

“Cycling is huge at the school,” he said, adding that Mowbray has a range of adapted bikes and trikes to ensure that all children can enjoy cycling no matter their physical capabilities.

Following on from their visit to Bedale town centre, the Tour de Yorkshire VIPs headed to Exelby to meet the race’s official artist Mackenzie Thorpe and donate trainers to a huge heart shaped piece of land art.

Stage one of today’s race goes from Doncaster to Selby and tomorrow it starts in Barnsley, with the women expected to finish in Bedale around 12.43pm and the men at 5.47pm.

Full timings for each stage can be found here