THE TOUR de Yorkshire is to return to Otley next year - on two separate days.

The eight 'hub' towns for the 2018 cycling extravaganza, which include Ilkley, were announced earlier this year.

But the full route of the May 3 to 6, Beverley to Leeds race was only confirmed this week - and it takes in Otley, Pool-in-Wharfedale, Arthington and Harewood.

Local cycling fans will first be able to cheer on some of the world's top riders on Friday, May 4 when the Barnsley to Ilkley stage passes through Harewood, Pool and Otley.

That stage will include a King of the Mountain challenge on Old Pool Bank.

The action will return to this area on the final day, Sunday, May 6 when the Halifax to Leeds city centre section includes Otley, Pool and Arthington.

Otley and Pool will include potentially pivotal points for the race, too, as they host a King of the Mountain on East Chevin Road and a sprint on Black Hill Road, respectively.

Otley residents will also be hoping to cheer on champion cyclist Lizzie Deignan in the Asda Tour de Yorkshire Women's Race, which she won this year.

The women's event will cover two days this time and will take place on the mornings of May 3 and 4, following a similar route to the men's.

Otley Town Council Chair Councillor Ray Georgeson (Lib Dem, Danefield) said: "I'm delighted that Otley again features on a Tour de Yorkshire route.

"Many thanks to organisers Welcome to Yorkshire and to Leeds City Council for again recognising the huge interest here in Otley.

"We can assure everyone of a hearty welcome with the town council playing its part in making both days occasions to remember for the town.

"Particular thanks should go to Councillor Sandy Lay who has worked hard quietly, behind the scenes, at every possible opportunity to bring this event back to Otley."

Cllr Lay (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) said: "I'm really pleased the race is yet again coming to Otley, reinforcing our reputation as the 'cycling capital of the north'.

"Overall, next May is shaping up to be a great time to visit Otley: not only do we have Otley Show but we also have events leading up to the 300th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Chippendale in the town, in early June, and now two days of exciting riding.

"With races on Friday and Sunday passing through Otley this is an opportunity for people to enjoy some high quality riding at the end of each day, and it will help bring out visitors and residents."

Fellow Lib Dem ward Councillors Ryk Downes and Colin Campbell echoed those sentiments.

Cllr Downes said: "It's fantastic news and this time it will be in our area for two of the four days, creating a great spectator event and further cementing Otley's reputation as a cycling town.

"I hope local businesses will be able to benefit."

Cllr Campbell added: "Otley's importance as Yorkshire's top cycling town will be recognised not once but twice with next year's Tour.

"This is a tremendous boost for both the local cycling community and the town in general.

"I'm sure Otley's residents and traders will rise to the occasion and welcome the many visitors."

MP Alex Sobel (Lab, Leeds North West) said: "I am delighted to hear that next year's Tour route will pass through Otley.

"When the race last came to Otley the whole community came together to make it a truly great event, it will be fantastic to see it happen again."

Welcome to Yorkshire Chief executive Sir Gary Verity, meanwhile, is promising a dramatic race route through 'some of our county's most spectacular terrain'.

He said: "I'm sure the world's best riders will relish the challenge it poses and we'll be treated to a tremendous fourth edition."