Digital Spy spoke with Ernie and Cindy today about that final leg, their race highlights, and what the future holds:
What has life been like since it was revealed you had won?
Ernie: "A whirlwind!"
Cindy: "It's been great. We actually watched the show with the other racers and all of our families. It's been really fun to share this experience with everyone we ran the race with."
And it must be a relief not having to keep it a secret anymore!
Cindy: "It is! No more secrets! My co-workers tell me I've become a really good poker face."
Ernie, you said your parents would probably "pass out in disbelief" at learning you'd won. Is that what happened?!
Ernie: "That was definitely the case! My mum was in a frenzy when I told her we'd won. Same with my father. How it was described on TV was pretty much how it went down."
It's almost fitting you guys won because you won the very first leg of the race...
Ernie: "Yeah, it was nice to win the first leg for the tool of the Express Pass to use later on, and then get a little trip to Fiji which we'll hopefully use for honeymoon. To wrap it up with the main victory was outstanding."
It seemed you had a comfortable lead throughout the final leg. How were you feeling heading to the finish line?
Cindy: "We had a pretty good feeling we'd left in first because by the time we'd gotten to the map challenge it didn't look like anyone else had got to the map yet, and by the time we left we still hadn't seen any of the other teams. We were hoping as long as we didn't get lost that we'd get to the pitstop quickly. We did get a little bit lost but it was only for a short amount of time."
When the cab driver missed his turning was that cause for concern or were you feeling pretty confident at that stage?
Ernie: "It was probably the only leg of the race where we did everything right! The taxi driver actually had the GPS unit and it was recalculating like it showed on TV but I don't think it gave us enough sense of worry that we thought we wouldn't find the place. I think my face on TV was more concerned because I didn't want Phil to give me a 'however' at the final pitstop. You never know in this game!"
Were you ever worried you'd get penalized for losing your train tickets on the way to Brussels?
Ernie: "We actually didn't have too much of a worry about that. The tickets were provided by the production so we had the tickets. Physically we didn't have them, but we had the reservation numbers. When I talked to the conductor on the first train she informed me it was in the conductor's opinion on the next train if they want to allow us on. We felt a little bit more comfortable that we could persuade the guy on the second train to let us ride it through because we were with all these other teams that are obviously in our pack. But it never came up. It was a non-issue and we were just glad we didn't get penalized."
You had good luck with people being really helpful in this leg from the cab driver lending his phone to the receptionist at the hotel. How important was that help?
Ernie: "When you're good to people, people tend to do nice things for you too. We tried to stay positive through all of our cabbies and everyone we came in contact with. If you go in there and are pushy or start being negative and harassing then no-one wants to do anything for you, so I wouldn't say it was so much luck as it was being good people and being nice to others. People returned the favour."
Cindy: "They didn't show a lot of the travel in cabs but we had a strategy where we would cheer and high five the cab drivers to make them feel they are part of the race too, part of the team. And they were. They are what can make or break your game."
Ernie: "If they are feeling good then we are feeling good and we're moving forward."
As shown when your cab driver helped you find the pitstop in Panama...
Cindy: "Right, we didn't know what was going on. We went to the Balboa Statue and saw Andy and Tommy there and we're like, 'Shoot, this is not it. We need to go back to the dancers'. The driver was like, 'No, I know where it is'."
Ernie: "We're like, 'How do you know where it is?!'"
Cindy: "We had actually passed Panama Viejo earlier in the day and Ernie had said, 'I bet that's where our pitstop is...'"
Ernie: "Because it was so historic - a relic - and you just figured it would be a great spot for a pitstop."
Cindy: "So as soon as he said Panama Viejo we're like, 'Oh, that makes sense!' Maybe one of his friends saw production setting up or something."
Ernie: "We had no idea how he knew that."
Cindy: "We lucked out and he got a big tip!"
There was a friendly rivalry between you guys and the snowboarders. Were you disappointed not to be racing against them in the finale?
Ernie: "I think we were disappointed they got eliminated just for the simple fact they are good people and nice guys and great competitors."
Cindy: "It took the pressure off a little bit because Andy and Tommy are so competitive and great athletes. If it came down to a foot race there was no way I would beat Olympians on a foot race! It was a little relieving although we love them and they are great people."
Where did the idea for launching a foundation with your winnings come from?]
Cindy: "We had a different idea going into the race, but as we were racing around and had the chance to explore, our idea started to evolve. When we got back from filming we went to Haiti for a weekend and spent time visiting with a bunch of foundations and NGOs. It was our visit to an orphanage that really inspired us to help with the education of children, because we had gone with a mission group to this orphanage. They said the most challenging thing was covering school fees for primary school. As soon as a child is out of primary school they are not going back to school so we thought for sure we wanted to be able to support education for primary school children."
Ernie: "And the cost is so marginal compared to the States. If we can do a little something to offset these costs and provide tuition or scholarships for children that are actually excited and looking forward to going to school to better themselves or their local economies then we want to provide that."
Will you treat yourselves to anything as well?
Ernie: "A wedding! We actually don't treat ourselves too much. It feels better to give back most of the time. I can give Cindy a million diamond rings but I don't think it will make either one of us feel any better than if we put somebody into school."
You said the race was great pre-marital counselling. What did you learn about each other through the experience?
Ernie: "I didn't know Cindy was so funny until I watched the race!"
Cindy: "It's the editing! No, I'm kidding! We learned a lot about how to communicate with each other and work together. I think it was a magnified version of who we are that you saw. Ernie always balances me out. If I'm stressed out he calms me down, if he needs to get revved up a little bit I know exactly how to pump him up."
Ernie: "It's a great team we have here and I'm so glad Cindy was able to convince me to do this."
Aside from winning what was your highlight?
Ernie: "The bodybuilding challenge!"
Cindy: "I think meeting all of the people and the other teams and production. There are so many people that go into making this race happen."
Ernie: "I think the networks you build and friendships you make are lifelong. You can't put a price on things like that and especially seeing the things we saw. How many other people get to travel around the world like that? It's pretty incredible that we got lucky enough to have the chance to do that."
So we'll be seeing some of the former racers at your wedding?
Cindy: "They are all invited and I think most of them plan on coming."
Ernie: "And Justin is speaking so he better show up!"
What is in the immediate future for you?
Ernie: "My company went bankrupt last week so I'm currently out of work, so I'll be working hard on getting this wedding together and our business idea while Cindy is continuing with her corporate life. As soon as the wedding is done we'll be in full business mode trying to get our new organisation started. Our ultimate goal is to get that up and running and be the best organisation possible."
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