The Sports Page

Follow the Leader

After two eventful episodes spent in the confines of southern Africa, the race covered a lot more ground this week, leaping all the way to Lucknow, India. On past seasons, India has chewed up and spit out a lot of teams, but on this leg so it had surprisingly little effect. After a big bunch that carried the teams en masse to India there was a bit of jockeying for position, but by the end teams were exactly where they started. And even the end arrived with more of a whimper than a bang, as teams arrived at the mat to be greeted by… another clue.

The overall blandness of this week’s leg makes it hard to pick out a Play Of The Week. No one particularly distinguished themselves. The only two teams that showed any real racing spark were Rob and Amber and Lynn and Alex, both of whom used their time in Francistown well to book onward tickets to Mumbai; the only problem there is that through a lack of stealth – or misplaced compassion – they allowed every other team to take advantage of their initiative. With five teams left, it really should be every team for itself here. So, no prizes for now. Next week, I expect to see some elbows going up in the corners. It’s crunch time, people.
And then, displaying that resolve and decisiveness for which soldiers and beauty queens are justly renowned, they… asked Rob and Amber what they should do.
Not much good stuff, but not too many mistakes either, as this was a real play-it-safe kind of leg. That’s not to say that I can’t hand out a Smooth Move. One of the few changes of position this week occurred when Ron and Kelly overtook Rob and Amber – by inches – on the way to the Yield marker. And then, displaying that resolve and decisiveness for which soldiers and beauty queens are justly renowned, they… asked Rob and Amber what they should do. Big mistake. When you have manage to pull ahead of the strongest team on the race, and you have the opportunity to hold them up, throw them off their game, you take it. If you decide that it isn’t in your best interests to do so, that’s one thing. But to ask them if you should Yield them? That’s just dumb.

The question really should be did the wheels come off the bus. After all, no elimination, no money-stripping – does last place count? Let’s say that it does. The next question is, did the bus have any wheels in the first place? Meredith and Gretchen were in last place, start to finish. Their best opportunity to move ahead was at the Roadblock, where they were briefly tied with Uchenna. Unfortunately for them, Gretchen wasn’t lucky enough – or tall enough – to find a clue quickly. She also didn’t figure out Uchenna and Alex’s trick of shaking the boxes to try and hear a clue rattling around inside. The time she lost on this task makes it as good a candidate as any for Where The Wheels Came Off The Bus.

No Pain, No Gain

With the overall herd-like nature of this leg, it isn’t that surprising that every team chose the same Detour option. Which is too bad, because I think the Detour represented the only opportunity this week for a team to really make some gains.

Smashing one hundred and seventy-five pounds of coal, stuffing it into burlap sacks, and transporting it four blocks on a tricycle sounds pretty hard. However, it was a straightforward task – and it was only one mile away. Teams choosing to deliver tea had to travel three miles before they could even start. Add to that the random nature of the task, wandering the halls of India’s bureaucracy looking for the correct Raj, and you have a task that could take a lot longer than a bit of heavy lifting.

The coal might have been beyond the physical capacity of Meredith and Gretchen, but any other team could have handled it easily. And if they had, they would have probably found themselves ahead of the pack. More tired and dirtier to be sure, but ahead of the pack all the same.

Lies, damn lies, and…

The statistics are even more dubious than usual this week, as the leg hasn’t really ended yet. Still, I figure will take a minor miracle – or an eighteen-rickshaw pile-up on Lucknow’s main drag – for any of the remaining teams to change positions before they get to Phil at the mat, I’m going to call this leg done with teams in the same order they are right now.

Brian/GregX 4.714
Another first puts Rob and Amber at the very top of the list of all racers after eight legs. Enjoy the dizzying heights, kids.
Another first puts Rob and Amber at the very top of the list of all racers after eight legs. Enjoy the dizzying heights, kids. Only two of the teams who were in the top ten at this point won the race, so it’s far from a sure thing that Rob’s name will ever appear on a one million dollar cheque.

Our top four is looking pretty solid, though. Meredith and Gretchen have had a great run, but it’s going to end soon. Of the remaining three teams, I still like Lynn and Alex or Uchenna and Joyce for the big winners.

Next Week

Expect India to rear up and squash one or two teams flat, as it so often does. Prime targets are perennial axe-dodgers Meredith and Gretchen; her performance on this week’s Roadblock in particular had “Killer Fatigue” written all over it. If they manage to hang on, I wouldn’t be surprise to see Ron and Kelly take a hike. Kelly is just the kind of girl that has had trouble with India in the past, and I don’t see her partner or their relationship being strong enough to sustain her. Even if she makes it out of India, expect it to exact a steep toll.
Leg 7-8a At a Glance

Start pointKhwai River Lodge, Khwai, Botswana
End pointCharbaugh Multi Flats, Lucknow, India
Distance traveled6100 miles
Distance to date22050 miles

Start OrderTimeFinish OrderTime

Smash and bag 175 pounds of coal, then use a tricycle to deliver it to a store.Push a tea cart 100 yds and deliver tea to five employees in an office building.

Search 600 steel boxes for one of ten containing a clue.
TeamTaken byRecordInOut