YORKSHIRE is once again the centre of the cycling world as the region is playing host to the UCI Road Cycling World Championships this week.

Otley's own former world champion Lizzie Deignan will be out out to regain her rainbow jersey in the women's elite race this Saturday.

Deignan always had the UCI Road World Championships as her target when she began her comeback following the birth of baby Orla last year.

Securing a second world title looks like a more realistic goal after a year highlighted by victory in the Women's Tour in June.

"It's been beyond my expectations," Deignan said of her season so far. "I never expected to be able to win something like the Women's Tour. My goal was always the world championships and being in the best form I could be for that.

"Obviously my dream and my goal is to be world champion but I never expected to be able to just stroll up and win a world title.

"I think you have to aim for something even if you're not 100 per cent sure you can achieve it, but each step of the way I've surprised myself so maybe that dream could become a reality."

The women's road race starts from the centre of Bradford, passes through Otley and has a technical finishing circuit in Harrogate including a short climb before the finish line, which seems custom-suited to the 2015 world champion's strengths.

"It really suits punchy, rouleur sort of riders, of which I'd like to think I'm one," said Deignan, who got a first-hand look at the circuit when she raced the Tour de Yorkshire in May. "There are lots of pinch-points on the circuit where it narrows over small bridges which is really unusual for a World Championships finishing circuit, so positioning will be hugely important.

"You won't want to be out of the top 20 at all on the whole course."

The world championships, which are based at Harrogate, are spread over nine days, including two full weekends.

The racing began with last Saturday's para-cycling events and Sunday's mixed team time trial, before continuing through the week with individual time trials and road races for men and women in the junior, under-23 and elite categories. The biggest draw will be this weekend with the women's and men's elite races.

After the women's elite race on Saturday, 24 hours later former Tour winner Geraint Thomas is part of a powerful British line-up for the men's race, up against the likes of three-time former world champion Peter Sagan, defending champion Alejandro Valverde, and the star of this year's Tour, Julian Alaphilippe.

Individual races begin across the county but all will end on a circuit around Harrogate, with a finish line on the Stray, where a week-long festival with fan zones, children's activities and live music will be staged.

Andy Hindley, chief executive of organising body Yorkshire 2019, said the world championships are on another level.

"People have been saying to me it's the biggest sporting event we've never heard of," he said. "Once you explain it, people understand that this is a true world championships, nation against nation, 90 different countries and 1,400 athletes attending."