The Alpine stages are all squeezed in right next to each other, so we start today in Briançon, just downstream from Serre-Chevalier, then head down the valley of the Durance before turning around and heading back up to the col d’Izoard, over which you would head down to get back to Briançon. And tomorrow we’ll start from Embrun, which we encountered along the Durance today. We’ll talk more about the river tomorrow as we follow it into Salon-de-Provence, but today is all about the Lac de Serre-Ponçon.
The Durance, like many of the rivers we’ve encountered this year, has a tendency to flood violently. Significant floods in the mid-19th century drove the investigation of damming the river, but it was not until the 1950s that technology progressed to the point that a dam on the Durance was possible.
The Barrage de Serre-Ponçon was completed in 1959 and holds back the second largest artificial lake (after the lac du Der-Chantecoq). Two villages were flooded by the construction of the dam: Savines was moved to the banks of the new lake while Ubaye was evacuated. The construction of the Barrage is the background for the film L’Eau Vive by François Villiers which features a soundtrack written by Guy Béart, including the title track:
If you had told me two years ago that Warren Barguil would win two stages, the polka dot jersey and come in 9th place in the Tour, I might have believed you. Last year, not so much. But wow, what a ride! Three days of racing left: the long road down the Durance to Salon-de-Provence, a time trial in Marseille and the sprint on the Champs-Élysées.