After racing through four continents, 20 cities and nearly 40,000 miles, engaged couple Ernie Halvorsen and Cindy Chiang claimed the $1 million prize in last night's Amazing Race season finale. The morning after their big win aired, Ernie and Cindy chatted with ETonline about their Race highs and lows!
ETonline: You two were frontrunners from day one -- is that a tougher position to be in than underdogs, like Amani and Marcus were?
Ernie Halvorsen: Oh, by far. When you're in the lead, you're the one asking people in the community or the village or figuring it out with the hotel staff. So when everyone inevitably goes there, they will know where to go because you've just wasted 15 minutes asking people while the next team is told "they went that way." It's tough being the trailblazer, but it happens.
ETonline: So how frustrating was it last night that your cabdriver couldn't find the final pit stop?
Ernie: It wasn't Ben’s fault. We plugged it into the GPS and that was going a little haywire. It was more dramatized than it actually was. We only circled the block a few times.
Cindy Chiang: Ben was so great. He knew all the backroads -- and the highways were closed that day so we didn't run into any traffic issues. We had a tough time getting a cab at the airport because none of them wanted to take us because we had no idea where we were going. He sought us out and said "I will take you." He became part of the team.
ETonline: How much of a lead did you have on Jeremy and Sandy, because you left the map challenge before they even got there.
Ernie: We were an hour ahead of Jeremy and Sandy checking into the final pit stop. And Marcus and Amani were about an hour after that. There was a big gap – it took Marcus a long time to get through the aviation simulator and I think they struggled again on the map. At the end of the day, it seemed to be our leg. We did everything right.
ETonline: Cindy, you smoked that final map challenge. I know you two did a lot of prep work before the Race, was studying a globe one of those things?
Cindy: Actually, it's funny – you know those maps in the back of the magazines on airplanes? On every plane ride, I would draw the route we were racing on every leg. So when it got down to the geography, I looked at the map and couldn't believe it. We used every moment of spare time we had to prepare for the next leg and to keep getting better.
Ernie: We literally had a miniature version of that map in my back pocket – we even used a red pen! [laughs]
ETonline: You two went head to head with Andy and Tommy from the first leg until they were eliminated. At that point, did you feel like this race was yours to lose?
Cindy: There was a definitely a sense of relief amongst all the teams. We had a party at the pit stop [laughs]. And that was one of the best moments in the race because we were all genuinely excited for each other and we all knew we had a shot at winning.
Ernie: It came down to the fact we were always in the head of the pack while Andy and Tommy were always the ones who would edge us out at the end of the day. But when that male alpha team was eliminated leaving only couples, we felt like we had an equal chance to win.
ETonline: What was your least-favorite leg?
Ernie: Oh gosh, it had to be the tobacco bails in Malawi. My hands were destroyed after that. I thought it would be easy but my hands were bleeding by the end of it. I couldn't breathe in there either. It was awful. My lungs dried up so fast. It was hard.
Cindy: The one that made me the most nervous was the tight-rope. I am really afraid of heights so I just kept staring at Ernie. I was shaking though – Amani said I was making a pufferfish face [laughs]. I was trying so hard to keep calm. But I'm glad I did it.
ETonline: And what about your favorite?
Cindy: It was the cave in Indonesia. It was the most incredible experience – going where not a lot of people get to go. It was spiritual and we enjoyed being down there.
Ernie: As much as I would love to say it was something culturally specific, the bodybuilder challenge was my favorite. I get into this showman state sometimes where I like showing off.
Cindy: He's a class clown.
Ernie: I like to be a jokester and when I saw the other teams were afraid to show off, I just took advantage of it to be a goofball.