Dales communities face being completely cut off as Le Tour de France races through Craven, the area’s police chief has warned.

Chief Inspector Simon Lovell told councillors a big challenge of next year’s cycle race was convincing people of its sheer scale.

He described it as a massive commercial venture that had the potential of leaving a great legacy for Craven that could be reaped for years to come.

But he warned it was on a far greater scale than last year’s Olympic Torch relay and that it would sweep all before it, cutting communities off for hours and making travel in some areas impossible.

“I don’t think people realise how difficult it will be to get out of some of the villages. People will have to pitch up the night before, or they’re just not going to be watching it,” he said.

And he said unless people had actually witnessed Le Tour, they would have no idea of how big it was.

“If you think of the torch relay, this is on a different scale again, and it’s a massive, commercial venture,” he said.

He told Craven District Council’s crime and disorder committee that people would have to be in place by 6.30am on race days to be sure of a spot and any cars along the route considered by the organisers to be a potential obstruction would be removed.

He said talks were ongoing with emergency services to work out contingency plans and the expected crowds were less likely to be of a ‘football crowd’ mentality.

The tour, the largest sporting event in the world, will come through Craven on two days, including along Skipton High Street.

Ch Insp Lovell said he did not know whether there would be an issue with parking on the High Street setts, or with the Friday market, and that would have to be sorted out by the town council.

“I guess the town council will be looking at clearing the High Street the day before. Logistically, if that area is not entirely cleared, it will end up a bottle-neck.”

Ch Insp Lovell also responded to concerns from some councillors about cyclists already travelling in large groups along the area’s narrow country roads.

Coun David Staveley (Cons) likened group cycling as a slow moving wagon that would require an escort vehicle.

And Coun Ady Green (Cons), who said he had never met a courteous cyclist, asked why cyclists could not travel in single file.

Ch Insp Lovell said cyclists who travelled in bunches – or peloton – were not doing anything illegal and actually did it because it was considered safer.

“Cycle groups are taught to cycle assertively. The simple fact is, if they go in a single line, gaps are created and the mentality of some drivers is they will fill it with their car.”

But he added that the police asked all road users to be courteous, including cyclists.

Coun Andy Solloway (Ind), a car driver and a cyclist, said he was always courteous to drivers and pointed out a cyclist was far more vulnerable than someone in a car.

“Don’t forget, we are extremely privileged to have the Tour de France, they could have gone somewhere else, and if the South can get it right, we can get it right,” he said.

Coun Staveley added that the council was indeed very supportive of the event, but that it also had a duty of care to its residents.