Skiers focus on finale of Nordic Challenge

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— Steamboat Springs cross country skier Ben Barbier expects a fast race this Saturday.

But no matter where he finishes in the finale of the Nordic Challenge event, which will be held at Vista Verde this Saturday, he will feel like a winner.

"It's been a great thing this winter," Barbier said of the five-event series. "We travel all over the state for races, but I think a lot of us have discovered that some of the best racing is right here in Routt County."

Barbier has won three of the four races held this winter. He is hoping to make it four-for-five this Saturday when the series comes to a close at the scenic Vista Verde Guest Ranch.

But to do that, he knows he will have to get past sidelined Nordic combined star Bill Demong. Demong won the first race but hasn't been to any of the others this winter.

"He is a rabbit for the rest of us to chase," Barbier said. "I would have to have a really good day and he would have to have a mediocre one for me to win."

But winning is not the main goal of the Nordic Challenge racers.

The event has attracted large fields of racers since it started with a race at the Steamboat Ski Touring Center back in January.

Other race venues have included Steamboat Lake, Howelsen Hill and, most recently, Lake Catamount.

"That's the really cool thing," Barbier said. "We've gotten to race on so many different courses. It's just a lot of fun."

Barbier said the race series has also given young racers in Steamboat an excellent opportunity to race.

As a coach for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Barbier has encouraged his athletes to take part in events where they can go head to head with some of the best racers in the area.

"There are a lot of talented racers in this area," Barbier said.

The final event will take place Saturday starting at 10 a.m. with events on both 10- and 5-kilometer courses. Following the races there will be an awards ceremony to honor both race and season-long winners.

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