THIS year's Tour de Yorkshire generated nearly £98 million for the county's economy.

Independent research has found that overall spending linked to the 2018 cycling race was up by 54 per cent on 2017 - to £97,973,806.

Some 2.6 million spectators watched elite riders compete between Thursday, May 3 and Sunday, May 6 this year on a route that took in much of Wharfedale.

Local communities that were visited included Ilkley (one of the event's 'hub' towns'), Otley, Pool-in-Wharfedale, Arthington, Blubberhouses and Timble.

Accommodation was the single biggest item of Tour-related spending, with £41,161,549 spent by spectators wishing to stay close to the action.

The other £56,812,257 covered a variety of expenses for items including food and drink, souvenirs and transport.

Chief Executive of organisers Welcome to Yorkshire, Sir Gary Verity, said: "This is absolutely tremendous news for the Tour de Yorkshire and for the county as a whole.

"The prestige of hosting the world’s best riders is just one part of why we organise the Tour but this is so much more than a bike race.

"The benefits it brings to Yorkshire are innumerable.

"These figures support the feedback we received from right along the race route.

"It’s news like this which makes us so proud, and so passionate about building on these successes in the future."

He added: "The Tour de Yorkshire is about bringing communities together as well and the way people turned out to support this year’s race was truly overwhelming.

"The county has taken the event thoroughly to its heart and we’ll work hard to ensure it keeps on going from strength to strength."

Otley was visited on two the race's four days this year, when fans lined the streets to cheer on the riders.

Otley Town Council Chair Ray Georgeson (Lib Dem, Danefield) said: "This is welcome news indeed from Welcome to Yorkshire.

"It confirms what we know, which is the major positive impact of the Tour de Yorkshire and the economic gains that it brings for many businesses.

"It also continues to raise the positive profile of Yorkshire to national and international audiences, who then subsequently visit in increasing numbers.

"The town council was delighted to support the Tour again this year.

"Sir Gary Verity was in town last week for the very popular Otley Cycle Races, and he knows that we will welcome the Tour back to Otley anytime they choose us."

The new statistics, based on research by GRASP that was compiled by Leeds Beckett University, show that the event is pulling in people from across the UK and further afield, too.

While the lion's share of the roadside spectators - 79 per cent - were Yorkshire residents, the other 21 per cent came from different parts of the country and abroad.

This year's race was televised in 190 countries and watched by 12.5 million TV viewers.