A Royal Air Force Officer from Worksop helped Yorkshire prepare for last week’s Tour de France action by cycling the 390-kilometre route around the county as part of a series of test exercises.
Flying Officer Antony Richardson, 25, was one of a 70-strong Armed Forces peloton who took part in ‘Yellow Jersey’, an exercise that covered the two-day route from the historic house of Harewood on the outskirts of Leeds to the centre of Sheffield.
Antony joined the RAF five years ago and is currently based at RAF Linton-on-Ouse.
He took up cycling three years ago.
Antony said: “It was after reading a book about Lance Armstrong that I went out and bought a bike. I was surprised by the tactics involved, it intrigued me.”
The arduous Stage One route of the Tour De France took the cyclists past some of the most beautiful landscape, historic places and industrial heritage in the region. The first day saw the military cycle the 190 kilometres (118 miles) through Skipton and the Yorkshire Dales past Aysgarth Falls and climbing the famous Buttertubs – an iconic 250m high ascent expected to challenge the Tour de France riders.
“How often does the opportunity come along to be part of an event like this,” Anthony added.
Preparations for the Grand Depart took place over a number of months with a test rides performed to ensure all routes were suitable.
Chief executive of TDF Hub, Nicky Roche, said: “We are grateful to the military cyclists for their assistance with our final planned tests to prepare for the race.”
Unlike the sprint finish in Harrogate at the end of the first day of the Tour de France, the military peloton, finished at an unusually leisurely pace.
Colonel Stuart Williams, Chairman of Army Cycling. said: “We are not here to race, we are here to do an important job for the organisers, the Yorkshire Tour de France hub and to savour just what the professional racing cyclists will endure,”
“For the military cyclists this is a unique opportunity to cycle this challenging route.”
“For some it has been an eye opener and something to aspire to achieve. For others it has been a personal test of their ability and their fitness.”
Nursing a few muscle aches, the second day saw the cyclists cycle out of York across Ilkley Moor and up the cobbled main street of Haworth continuing into Huddersfield and ascend the long steep climb to Holme Moss. They completed the day’s 200 kilometre (125 mile) ride in Sheffield.