Even worse was the next high mountain stage, one of the worst-designed stages in the history of the sport.
Aside from using the detested Tourmalet, what function does this stage serve? Even when trying to justify the Pau stage in 2010 we could hope that four major mountains would break the bunch up enough to make it more than just an unofficial rest day; with just two climbs - and two of the most overused climbs in the history of Le Tour to boot - and more than 50km flat after the descent from the final climb of the day, this was barely even a stage for the breakaway; if Caisse d'Epargne had had a little bit of help on the run-in, then this would have been Óscar Freire and José Joaquín Rojas sprinting for the win on a so-called high mountain stage. Certainly had Peter Sagan been around then, Liquigas would probably have chased down Pellizotti considering his chances in a two-up sprint against Fedrigo were worse than Sagan's chances from a bunch of 70.
Then we get to the first actually well-designed mountain stage of the race - and it's an intermediate stage.
The Vosges mountains are comparatively underused in the Tour, and a stage like this is an excellent way to use them - a potential banana skin with a tough climb with 20km to go. Not so tough as to make attacks inevitable. But an actual decent mountain stage. It was won from the break of course, and all the contenders stayed together, but that's not the organisers' fault for once.
After the Verbier stage shown above, we moved into the Alps proper, for another stage that would have been far better in the opposite direction.
The Col du Grand Saint-Bernard is pretty tough. Petit-Saint-Bernard isn't easy, but it is a real tempo grinder's climb. The kind that don't really produce explosive racing in today's world of power meters. Stick an MTF to Les Arcs or Montchavin and maybe it's a great stage, with the riders having to actually go to a finish with some real climbing in their legs first, but with a long gradual descent on a shortish stage with such gradual climbs it was never going to be a big shake-up. Maybe they could have added Colle San Carlo from Morgex in between the two climbs - at 10,5km @ 10% that would really have put some suffering into the legs and maybe made Petit-Saint-Bernard a bit more decisive.
Then, of course, we have this.
No complaints about this. This is the finest stage design Christian Prudhomme has ever greenlighted, and the first and only genuine, truly epic mountain stage of the 2009 Tour, both on paper and in execution.