French cycling star to headline Tour de Yorkshire

Thomas Voeckler winning in 2016

Thomas Voeckler winning in 2016

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The Tour de Yorkshire organisers have confirmed their first star rider for the 2017 race.

Last year's champion Thomas Voeckler will return to defend his title, which he secured with a two-man sprint along Scarborough's North Bay.

The Frenchman, 37, has won four stages of the Tour de France, worn the yellow jersey 20 times, and been King of the Mountains.

He will retire after the 2017 season, meaning his appearance at the Tour de Yorkshire in April will be his last British race.

Voeckler rides for Direct Energie.

“I fell in love with the Tour de Yorkshire two years ago and it was a huge honour to win it after finishing third in 2015. This race feels like home for me because the crowd are always shouting my name, holding up banners or writing it on the road. I have never seen anything like it," he said.

“I am looking forward to competing in Yorkshire one last time and I hope to have a major impact on the race, however I can.”

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity is delighted to see Voeckler return for a third successive season and insists he is just the first in a long list of world-class riders to be unveiled over the coming months.

“Thomas has been a tremendous ambassador for the Tour de Yorkshire so I am thrilled he will be on the start line again. His swashbuckling style is a joy to behold and that tenacity has endeared him to supporters young and old. Riders of his ilk are what makes the Tour de Yorkshire so special and we will have a stellar field lined up once again in April.

“The word is now truly out on what a special and well-supported race the Tour de Yorkshire is, and with the 2019 World Championships now firmly on the horizon, the interest in the race has never been higher.”

Race organisers eventually hope to extend the event from three to four days.