TOP officers from Richmondshire District Council, Craven District Council and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority are training hard for the ride of their lives – the Tour de France Grand Départ route.

However, despite trying out the 73-mile section of the route prior to the big day, they will not be competing in the real thing on July 5.

Yorkshire Dales National Park chief executive David Butterworth said: “It started off as something of a joke, then, because of the competitive nature of my fellow CEOs, it became a bit more serious.

“I’m now up to 250 miles a week in training and feeling well up for the challenge.

“It’s certainly become more serious and I should add that I’m doing twice as many miles as the other CEOs on the ride, but I’m still confident in doing it in half their time.”

The Grand Départ Stage 1 will leave Leeds on July 5 for a breathtaking 190km ride through the National Park to Harrogate.

The route will go along Wharfedale, Bishopdale, Wensleydale and Swaledale, with climbs over Kidstones from Wharfedale into Bishopdale, Buttertubs Pass from Wensleydale to Swaledale and then out of Grinton towards Leyburn.

The following day, cyclists will skirt through the southern edge of the National Park as they ride past Bolton Abbey on their way from York to Sheffield.

Managing Director of Richmondshire District Council Tony Clark said: “It is an exciting time for Richmondshire and we are delighted that the Tour de France will be making its way through our District on July 5.

“This cycle ride is the perfect starting block for what promises to be a momentous occasion for Yorkshire.”