CITY Park erupted with the sounds of cheering and cow bells on Saturday as crowds gathered for the start of the UCI Women Elite Road Race.

It was an international affair with cycling enthusiasts from Chicago, Las Vegas and Australia among those waiting with anticipation for the countdown.

The race got underway at 11.40am following a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Doreen Lee.

Emmerson Walgrove, the Lord Mayor’s Believing in Bradford ambassador, described the atmosphere with three words: exciting, encouraging and great.

He told the Telegraph & Argus: "It put Bradford on the map again. What you find is we’ve had the Tour De Yorkshire and that led to the UCI. People will be looking at Bradford in a different light.

“I think it inspires women, girls, of all generations to be able to think they can aspire to do something which is positive but improves their health at the same time."

Dutch rider Annemiek van Vleuten cruised to the finish line with a solo 104km breakaway to claim the first road race world title of her career.

But defeated Lizzie Deignan, Yorkshire's own world champion cyclist, said she would always remember the day with "a smile" despite rolling into Harrogate in 31st place.

The Otley-born cyclist said: "The dream didn’t come true, but I will always remember today with a smile. Huge thank you to Trek-segafredo, British Cycling, to the British public, our local community, my family and friends and most importantly my husband Philip Deignan and Orla [her daughter], my greatest achievement."

Deignan was supported by her Queensbury connections who wore their Queensbury Queens T-shirts on the day - the same cycling club that her sister attends.

Laura Wright, one of the club's members, said: “The TV coverage just shows Yorkshire at its best. The sun’s come out."

While Liz Beech, another Queensbury Queen, said: "It’s not just cycling - it’s social and it’s family. You can say anything and they’ll help.”

For some people the day was a family affair with David Grundy thinking of his late relative whom the Ray Flinton Cup, at Scarborough Paragon Cycling Club, is named after.

Mr Grundy, who travelled from Halifax, said: “There’s cycling in the family.

"I’ve been into cycling for a long time. It’s good as it’s so local."

And the road race made quite the impression on his 12-year-old daughter, Lauren, who described feeling "inspired" to do more cycling.

She said: "I like cycling. The bikes are really nice. It’s inspired me to do some more cycling. I like seeing how fast they cycle.”

And she wasn't the only young girl excited about watching the professionals race.

Eleven-year-old Erin Greasley often cycles with her nana, another Queensbury Queen, to sights like Bolton Abbey in North Yorkshire.

Erin, who described the start of the race as "exciting", said: "I've got one of Lizzie's tops signed.

"It's just fun. They looked really cool. I just want to do it now."

Her father, who has spent 30 years of his life in Bradford, said the event showed Bradford is coming "back up again".

Mr Greasley said: "To set off from Bradford - it’s brilliant.

"She does quite a few sports. It’s good that the kids can see even if you’re growing up in ‘not the best city’ you can still aspire to do something."

The event was a source of pride for many with Maureen Goddard from Queensbury inviting her friends from Plymouth to the event.

She said: "It can get a lot of bad press but this shows it’s an international event.”

John Wright, who has spent 50 years of his life in the city, said he was particularly pleased to see the Mirror Pool back in action on the day.

He said: “I like Bradford. It’s good to see this.”

Tasveer Ghani, who described Deignan as an "inspiration", took up cycling after watching the Tour de Yorkshire two years ago.

She explained how "bikes were never talked about" in her family home after her brother had an accident.

After spending years "yearning" to get back on two wheels, Tasveer saw the racing event as a sign.

She said: "It's great cycling's become so big in Bradford. This last two years it's got me back on my bike, especially getting the women out to cycle.

"It's inspiring to see somebody like Lizzie. I know there can be others that can follow in her footsteps and become great cyclists. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor, some people just want to do sport.

"It's more healthy and that's what it's all about."