The sixteenth stage takes us out of the Loire valley and into that of the Rhone. We end up in Romans-sur-Isère on one of the tributaries of the Rhone, the Isère River.
The Isère joins the Drac at Grenoble a little ways above Romans-sur-Isère, and the pair of them are known as the “serpent” and the “dragon,” respectively. The serpentine Isère meanders through the Grésivaudan as it makes its way to Grenoble. The Drac takes its name from the Occitan “drac,” which is a water demon that tempts children to drown.
The two rivers are known for their propensity to flood, creating a massive flood in 1219. A landslide dam stopped the Romanche, a tributary of the Drac which runs past the classic Tour climb of Alpe d’Huez. This dam burst over the night of September 14 and 15, 1219, and the flood wave runs down the Romanche into the Drac. The city of Grenoble was much smaller then, centered around a meander on the Isère, so this initial flooding did not reach the city. But the flood caused the Isère to back up and flow into a lake around Meylan. When this lake emptied, its waters flooded Grenoble, causing damage and casualties largely because of a market that was being held there.
Levees to prevent such disasters are now maintained on the Isère, the Drac and the Romanche by the Association départementale Isère Drac Romanche.
A thrilling finish for the puncheurs in the winds on the Valentinois (the valley in which Romans-sur-Isère sits). We’ll head further up the Drac tomorrow when we start from La Mure and head into the Alps.