TOUR de France fans wanting to follow the route of the Grand Depart through Yorkshire have been left baffled - after the signs were uprooted by thieves.

The iconic metal markers worth up to £300 each were supposed to guide cyclists and motorists along the Grand Depart long after the champions returned to France.

But less than a month after the historic ride in July the way markers are disappearing from the roadside - and appearing on internet auction sites.

Police are now hunting the thieves – whose greed could cost the holiday industry dear in tourism hotspots such as James Herriot country.

North Yorkshire Police said the markers were professionally made - usually on brown and white information boards - and cost between £100 and £300 apiece.

They were designed as permanent tourist information signs so the Leeds to Harrogate and York to Sheffield stages would become part of the Tour de France legacy.

Insp Chris Galley, of Northallerton Safer Neighbourhood Team, said: “North Yorkshire Police have recently been made aware of missing road signs relating to the 2014 Tour de France.

“These signs have been removed from street furniture and worryingly some have been put up for sale using internet selling sites.

“The signs are the property of North Yorkshire County Council and provide a lasting legacy marker of the route which should be for all road users to enjoy for years to come.

“North Yorkshire Police have recovered two signs and remain vigilant to others going missing from around the route in North Yorkshire.”

He appealed for anyone with any information about the specialist signs to contact police.

He added: “We will investigate all reports of theft but North Yorkshire Police is currently taking a sensible approach to what may be over zealous trophy taking from around the route.

“If anyone has found a road sign they can hand them into any Police Station or council office and we will work with North Yorkshire County Council to have these route markers put back in place as a lasting reminder of the event.”

More than 50 of the signs were put up by North Yorkshire County Council and 35 by Bradford Council.

North Yorkshire Council Leader John Weighellsaid: “The Grand Départ is the beginning not the end of our ambition for a great cycling legacy in North Yorkshire.

“These signs are to allow visitors to enjoy the route for years to come.

“They are part of this great opportunity to enhance the region’s reputation as a top rate tourist destination with all the economic and cultural benefits that will bring.”

Insp Galley has tweeted: "Proactive work to recover expensive #TDF2014 road signs. If you have one contact 101 @NYorksPolicebefore we find you."