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Cat and Mouse: Freeman Tops Boone for PPP Crown


U.S. Nordic Ski Team member Kris Freeman out-dueled defending champion Andrew Boone in a tough back-and-forth battle Saturday to capture the elite men’s title in the 36th annual U.S. Bank Pole Pedal Paddle.

Bend’s own Stephanie Howe, meanwhile, made it a “three-peat” to capture her third straight elite women’s crown, once again ahead of last year’s second-place finisher, Mary Wellington.

For the top men, it was a true cat-and-mouse game between the defending champ and a world-class newcomer, starting much the same way as last year, with Boone the first one down the leeway run at Mt. Bachelor.

With those transitions down to a science, the PPP veteran was on the cross-country course in no time. But it was the Nordic stage that gave Freeman a chance to assert himself and take the lead.

The New Hampshire native, one of the world’s top cross-country skiers and a U.S. Olympian, covered the eight kilometers in no time, emerging as the leader as the race switched from skis to bicycle wheels.

“I knew he was going to be a fierce competitor, and once he came by me on the skis so fast, I thought maybe my day was done then,” Boone recounted. “Then I found a rhythm on the bike and got him pretty quick.”

The game of cat and mouse between the two was just getting started. Boone was the better cyclist, and Freeman knew it.

“I really don’t spend much time on my bike,” Freeman said, “and this was only the second time I’d ridden the particular time trial bike I was on. So I was scared,” he said with a laugh.

“I was going 50 miles an hour on Andy Fecteau’s bike, and it was like, ‘I wish I had a little bit more time.'”

Meanwhile, among the elite women, Howe came off the mountain in first, off the Nordic trail on top and led all the way down to Bend on her bike. But it wasn’t easy for her — in fact, it was harder than last time.

“I’ve been living in Corvallis, so all I’ve been doing is running,” she said after the race. “So it was a little bit shock to the system to do everything today.”

As the leaders finished the 5-mile run and entered the Deschutes for the paddle portion of the race, the top three were clearly established. Boone and Freeman had gone back and forth, Zach Violett was practically coasting in third place.

While others had some difficulty on the water, Freeman and Boone passed under the Old Mill footbridge less than a minute apart.

Boone, runner-up the prior two years before last year’s win, had to settle for that No. 2 spot yet again on a day that dawned sunnier and drier than last year’s race, though still a bit chilly.

“It was a race, and I knew it would be,” Boone said. “I had a lot of fun. You know, I wish my legs would have felt a little bit better coming off the bike, on the run. I felt real sluggish for the first two miles.”

This year’s Pole Pedal Paddle would feature a close finish, but in the end, in well under two hours, Freeman was the first to arrive at the Les Schwab Amphitheater

And in his first-ever attempt to run the race all by himself, Freeman is the champion.

“The Olympics, there’s definitely some more pressure,” he said. “But it’s strikingly similar, in time and effort, to a 50-K (Nordic ski race). You just have to pace yourself like that — you can’t quite go all-out the whole way.”

While Freeman finished to cheers with arms raised, in traditional fashion, Howe had enough energy left to do a little twisting jump for joy at the finish line.

And she says she never looks back, over her shoulder.

“Nope, I just focus on myself,” Howe said. “There’s nothing I can do about the people behind me, so I just focus on my race, and just go.”

After it was all said and done, with hugs and high-fives among the intensively competitive top finishers, the final results were all kept in perspective. Take Boone, for example, who was happily carrying his baby daughter around at the post-race festivities.

“She’s my No. 1 priority,” he said. “Really, you know, second place or 50th place, it doesn’t really matter, because this is a great town, a great race, and I’ve got a great family and great friends.”

Click here to check out the full results list on the MBSEF Website.

And please share a few of your photos of the day with us via e-mail ( or using the My Report feature of our smartphone app, to add to our PPP slide show of all the fun and competition.

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