Welcome to the longest season's grand finale. A race after riders have peaked and laid it all on the line for their countries twice already and are now literally running on fumes. With the Games gone and the final race at altitude here in Andorra, it was time to see who fared best during this grueling season. The men's field yielded favorites Nino and Julien, while the women's field held more contestants, and the women elites saw some of the best racing this season. Jenny Rissveds surprised friend and for by taking the Olympic gold in Rio, catapulting her to one of the favorites in Andorra. But, first off the bat are tomorrow's champions, the U23 men:
Moments before the start, riders each have their own way of zoning in.
As the sun lights up the mountains, the men's U23 field is away for their final race in 2016.
Simon Andreassen took the lead as Marcel Guerrini chased.
Antoine Bouqueret pushed hard as he led the race in lap two.
Titouan Carod ended an awfully strong season with a third place and an overall World Cup victory.
Marcel Guerrini rode a solid race, which saw him take the win in Andorra.
A long season, ending at altitude. Faces of pain rolled into the finish line today. Milan Vader took 6th.
:: WOMEN ::
Sina Frei dominated the women's U23 field this year. Another win and a well-deserved overall World Cup title.
Warm up for Catharine Pendrel. Would she bring the battle to the field?
The Trek Factory Racing Wolf.
Emily Batty took time to hang with her biggest Andorran fan.
Jenny Rissveds surprised friend, foe and herself as she stormed to an Olympic victory in Rio.
Women's Elite start.
Gunn-Rita seemed to be heading for a win. She led the race for multiple laps, but ultimately, the Norwegian yielded to Neff.
Yana Belomoina leads Jenny Rissveds in the first lap of the race.
Gasping for air, Jolanda Neff struggles with the conditions in Andorra like all did.
Riders making their way down one of the tricky natural downhills in the course. As soon as one dismounted, the others had to follow.
Jolanda Neff sees Dahle-Flesjaa in her sights. Ultimately, Neff would overtake Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjaa for an impressive win.
Jolanda Neff has had a mixed season, but she left no doubt as to who was strongest today.
Silver medalist in Rio, Maja Wloszczowska had no major issues today, riding to a strong, fifth place.
What can you say about Gunn Rita? She had the late season fitness to pull of an incredible ride.
Catharine Pendrel peaked just right for both MSA and the Olympics, then carried that fitness into Andorra. Pendrel took third today, winning the, overall World Cup series by a straw.
Emily Batty ended a spectacular season in third overall.
Maja, gasping for air, tries to cool down after a tough fight.
Annika Langvad has been one of this season's best performers. Today's crash left a deep gash in her shin - and her series points. She finished thirteenth and saw her lead in the overall standings slip away.
:: MEN ::
Julien Absalon leaves his team stand as his race is about to get underway.
Nino Schurter's team added some bells and whistles to his bike prior to the start.
Marco throws the horns during a final stretch before go time.
This man has accomplished much this year. A perfect ride saw him taking an uncontested Olympic gold in Rio while arch-rival Absalon faded.
Carlos Coloma had the race of his career in Rio, taking home the bronze medal. In Andorra, he raced away from the field in the first lap.
Ondrej Cink was also out like lightning. He shared the lead for a while and didn't fade. He took second today.
Rodriguez dives into the most technical section of the track.
Stephane Tempier has had a solid season on the World Cup. He digs deep on the big climb to take fifth.
The classic battle: Absalon leading Schurter this time. It seems balance won out in the end. There's only so much gold one man can carry in a season.
Ondrej Cink gets caught by Julien Absalon and Nino Schurter. Absalon would power away moments after.
Schurter chased Absalon, but had to let go after a flat in lap five.
Pablo Rodriguez brought home third on behalf of the Spanish boys.
Julien Absalon had both the lungs and the legs today.
Maxime Marotte, feeling the burn in his lungs and legs after a hard-fought race to fourth.
There were plenty of shattered warriors against the barricades at the end of the day.
The cheers for Julien were massive.
Cedric Gracia pours champagne into Jose Hermida's glass.
The end of and era. Say what you will about spandex vs. baggies, Minnaar, Peaty, and Cedric came out to welcome home Jose Hermida on his last World Cup. So much style and respect. It was a proper end to an emotional week. Thanks boys!
Hermida fans were out in force - a proper send off.
A disappointed Schurter settled for eighth.
Julien takes home another trophy.
So long from Andorra. That's a wrap on XC this year, but time flies. We will be back soon.
So an Olympic season comes to an end. We've witnessed some incredible racing, saw legends say farewell and new stars being born. See you in 2017!