With home favourite Alexander Kristoff poised in the leader's blue jersey at the halfway stage of the race following an impressive win by Ireland's Sam Bennett in Setermoen, the ingredients were all there for a pulsating weekend of bike racing north of the Arctic Circle.

SENSATIONAL SENJA

To make matters even better, the clouds that had hung over the fjords around Harstad disappeared to reveal a cloudless blue sky for the queen stage to Malselv Fjellandsby on Saturday.
Cycling
Arctic Shtick: Salmon no distraction for King Kristoff
15/08/2015 AT 14:17
The 183km stage three got started with a truly breathtaking loop around the second largest island in Norway - the rugged beauty that is Senja, whose northern shores really seem like the edge of the world.

OTTO OVATION

The likes of Thor Hushovd and Kristoff may be popular in their native Norway but both these contemporary cycling stars don't get close to the legend that is Dag Otto Lauritzen.
Otto, the first Norwegian to win a stage on the Tour de France with victory at Luz Ardiden on Bastille Day in 1987, is bigger than Beckham in Scandinavia.
Now 56 and working for Norwegian TV, Otto drives ahead of the race with a cameraman for each stage, stopping off to talk to fans along the way. To entice their idol to stop, spectators often put on choreographed displays for Otto - and have even been known to cook him snacks and food.

PERFECT PREDICTIONS

Ahead of the stage, our man Felix Lowe - aka Blazin' Saddles - had his say regarding who would arrive at the top of the Malselv alpine village in pole position. It's fair to say, he got it spot on...
BMC's Hermans indeed rounded Astana's Taaramae to take the win while IAM's Mathias Frank settled for third place ahead of the final stage of the race.

BMC BIKES

It was then over to Narvik - Norway's answer to Cape Town, a port and ski resort almost entirely destroyed during the Second World War - for the final stage. With a 125km loop out of town followed by 40km on a demanding city circuit, there was everything to play for.
Hermans held a slender seven-second lead over Taaramae and was determined to keep hold of the blue jersey after conceding the Tour of Poland on the final day less than a fortnight previously.
In the lobby of the Quality Hotel Grand Royal in Narvik, BMC's bikes were primed and almost in the same order as the previous day's top five, which included three BMC riders (Silvan Dillier and the cherubic Dylan Teuns had finished fourth and fifth after Hermans).

PODIUM PARTY

But it was not to be for Hermans, who suffered a mechanical problem on the first of three city laps before being dropped by Taaramae, Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) and team-mate Dillier on one of the punchy residential ramps.
BMC may have conceded the overall victory but they saved face with a first individual pro stage win for white jersey Dillier, while Taaramae coasted to the line to take third place on the day and prise the blue jersey from Hermans' shoulders.
Norway's August Jensen took enough points over the final climbs to win the king of the mountains classification for a second year running and secure the inaugural salmon jersey (plus a salmon-themed dinner out for him and his Coop-Oster Hus team-mates with one of Norway's best chefs).
Opening stage winner Kristoff couldn't repeat his final-day heroics from the year previously in Tromso but settled for the green sprint jersey.

JUSTINE TIME

Despite the presence of an eligible Estonian in her wake, ASO podium girl Justine seemed less impressed by Taaramae than by the presence of hunky Hushovd, the Bull of Grimstad...

TAARAMAE THUNDERBOLT

Opening up to journalists after his second stage race win in two weeks, Taaramae said he was "delighted" to win in Norway and promised to come back to the Arctic one day.
The emotional 28-year-old also revealed he was on the verge of quitting Astana after a what appeared to be an irreversible breakdown in relations between him and the Kazakh team.
Granted a quick one-on-one with Taaramae, our British blogger couldn't resist asking whether or not one of the teams in talks with Taaramae was Sky - but he remained both cagey and coy with his answer.

SELFIE SYMMETRY

After the brief interview, Blazin' Saddles asked the winner of the Arctic Race of Norway whether he would mind posing for a photo - just as the pair had done prior to the race five days previously.
While permission was granted...
… our blogger was less chuffed with Taaramae's initial answer: "I took a selfie with you on the first day? I cannot remember that."
Yes, Rein, it was during our intimate helicopter ride together with Bryan Coquard... (although perhaps it was more of a big deal for one of us than the other!).

HERMANS HYSTERICS

And finally, the man who lost the blue jersey on the final day was conspicuous in his absence on the podium when BMC assembled to take the team prize. 
Indeed, the 29-year-old was not even spotted celebrating Dillier's win later on either - sparking rumours that he was upset at BMC's tactics, which resulted in the Swiss youngster not only winning the stage but comprehensively leapfrogging Hermans on GC.
Which brings us nicely to this final tweet to wrap things up from the Arctic... See you next year!