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Note: The Amazing Race Analysis blog is a spoiler-free zone.  The Analysis below is based on statistics of the team’s age, gender and relationship profile.  Read on for some serious handicapping of The Amazing Race 21 teams!

The Amazing Race kicks off its 21st season on September 30th, and once again the TAR Producers have put together a diverse crew of racers vying for the one million dollar prize.  Now that we have 20 seasons behind us (19 of which have had the two racers per team format), we can do an analysis and rank teams based on prior teams with similar profiles.

We generally don’t know much about the teams other than their gender, age, and relationship status, so this is what I use to make my picks.  There have been 212 teams thus far, so we are starting to get a feel for how teams tend to do based on their composition.   A deep run into The Amazing Race is to get to Leg 11, where typically 4 or 3 teams are left.  This is the marker of success I’m using in handicapping the teams.  71 of the 212 teams, or 33%, have achieved this goal.   Some team profiles have better than 33% average attainment of leg 11.  For example, all-male teams have made it to leg eleven 43% of the time, so they have a +10% rating compared to the average.  Mixed gender teams have a 35% leg 11 attainment percentage (+2 to average), and all-female teams have a 21% leg 11 attainment (-12%).

Note that since season 10 all-female teams have reached leg 11 33% of the time.   Yup, that means that none of the 13 all-female teams who raced in the first 9 seasons even made it to leg 11.  The TAR Producers have been casting more competitive all-female teams, and have created more diverse challenges that require more skills than brute strength, which the first several seasons seemed to be dominated by.

OK, so let’s take a look at the teams and their chances, going from worst to first!

11. Natalie and Nadiya: Sisters 20-35  (-19% to Average)

Natalie and Nadiya are twin sisters.  Does this give them an advantage somehow?  Not so much.   Sisters have a sketchy record on The Amazing Race.  The glaring exception is Kisha and Jen’s victory in Season 18.  However, Kisha and Jen’s first try on Season 14 got them to leg 10, so even this top-flight team has only a 50% score.  Last season, we had a pair of sisters, Misa and Maya, who seemed reasonably athletic, but they tanked on the first episode, getting eliminated.  The next best sister team finish was Kami and Karli, also twins, with 5th place in season 5.  Another recent set of twin sisters, Liz and Marie in Season 19, were more interested in playing with elephants than winning, and finished 8th.   Male twins Eliot and Andrew blew it last season and got booted on the third leg.   The best twins finish was way back in Season 3, when twin models Derek and Drew finished 4th.  You’d think twins would do well, but not so much.

10.  Gary and Will: Male Friends 40-60 (-13% to Average)

Gary (age 52) and Will (age 53) are substitute teachers, so their angle is that they can handle new things coming their way all the time.  The problem is that older male friends tend to tire out during the race.  The best result for an older male team was Louie and Michael, the detectives from Season 16.  They came in fourth.  Mark and Bopper from last season gallantly made it to 5th place, but heat exhaustion and bad knees kept them from going any further.  Will claims to be a marathon runner, so I’m not too concerned about him running out of gas, but Gary does not claim any such athletic stamina, so I’ll be watching to see if he is the weak link.

9. James and Mark: Male Friends 40-60 (-13% to Average)

James and Mark are the head-bangin’ heavy metal guys who, in their pre-race video come across as some of the most thoughtful and articulate racers of all time. Their precision of language and clarity of thought is impressive. I fully expect their in-race interviews to be imbued with insight and intelligence. So I give them the edge over Gary and Will, who have the same profile.  That, and Mark is a bit younger at 45.  Also, they seem to have traveled a lot.  I am concerned that these guys’ hair will get in the way, and they are going to have to be willing to put their hair up or tie it back during some of the messier challenges.  Will they do it?

8. Rob and Kelley: Married 40-60 (-6% to Average)

Rob and Kelley are the Monster Truckers, and were married somewhat recently.  Married couples between 40 and 60 have had some success on The Amazing Race.  Chip and Kim won it all on Season 5, and Uchenna and Joyce backed up that victory on Season 7!  Teri and Ian on Season 11 also scored a second place victory.  However, others in this same demographic have fared poorly, making this profile kind of a “boom or bust” profile.

7.  Rob and Sheila: Engaged 40-60 (Married couples are -6% to Average)

Rob is the lumberjack, so we can expect a lot of shots of Rob sawing stuff, and perhaps many lumberjack puns during the race.  (“We want to ‘cut down’ the competition.”)  I’m using married couples to calculate their comparative average, but this couple is actually engaged, and this is a first on TAR.  We’ve never had an engaged couple over the age of 40, so really, this couple is kind of a wild-card.   Note that engaged couples on TAR have performed terrifically!   There have been 8 engaged (and younger) teams who have competed, and five have made it to leg 11 —  a crazy 63% of the time.

6. Caitlin and Brittany: Female Friends 30 and under (-4% to Average)

Caitlin and Brittany are on the young side, so they aren’t quite in the same demographic as famous winners Nat and Kat, who were in their thirties when they won it all.  Young-ish female friends who have done well are Jaime and Cara, the NFL cheerleaders from season 14 who came in second and Dustin and Kandice, the Beauty Queens, who took in a fourth and a second place finish.  Brook and Claire (she of the famous watermelon smashed in the face) also had a second place finish, too.  So we’ve seen some good stuff from this profile.  Caitlin and Brittany could be the sleeper pick!

5.  Josh and Brent: Male/Male Engaged (Dating/Married men perform same as overall Average)

Six times we’ve have a male/male dating or married team, but we’ve never had an engaged all-male team.   We’ve seen above that engaged teams have performed terrifically, but these were male/female teams.  However, perhaps there is something about when teams are engaged that they are on their best, most respectful behavior, no matter what the gender, and this helps performance.  But this couple has been together for 15 years, so had marriage been legal in their state, they would have been married long ago.    Dating or married all-male teams have had success – Reichen and Chip famously won season four.  And Joe and Bill, a bit older, made it to the final three in the inaugural season.  We haven’t seen too many male/male couples since then, with the last one being Ron & Bill in Season 19, who finished a dismal 11th.  I expect better from Josh and Brent.

4. Amy and Daniel: Dating 25-40 (+7% compared to Average)

Amy is a double-amputee and snowboarder, so this will be a great story when we see her out-run many of the competitors.  There has been an amputee before on the Amazing Race – Sarah from season 10, and she and her partner finished a middling 7th.

3. Abbie and Ryan: Dating 25-40 (+7% compared to Average)

Abbie and Ryan have the same basic demographics as Amy and Daniel, so it is really a toss-up between the two teams.  If you watch the intro video for Abbie and Ryan, Ryan makes the outrageous claim that he expects to win 9 legs (and beat Dave and Rachel’s record) and win it all.  This is a ridiculous claim, Ryan, but I’m giving you the edge over Amy and Daniel out of deference to your super-confident assessment.  But you’ll know that I’m rooting for Amy and Daniel, as they seem like nicer people.   Also note that when we’ve seen bad behavior on The Amazing Race, it’s come from overconfident boyfriends who turn out to be jerks, so based on your rhetoric alone, you are officially on notice, Ryan!

2. Trey and Lexi: Dating 25 and under (+7 compared to Average)

Dating couples all seem to have generally positive results, and the under-25’s have the same Leg 11 percentage as the 25-40 daters.  I’m giving Trey and Lexi the edge because the under-25 daters have won it all twice:  TK and Rachel (Season 12) and Meghan and Cheyne (season 15).  That’s a great track record.   Dating couples between 25 and 40, in contrast, have never won it all!  And there have been 25 couples in this demographic who have tried.  Is anyone ever going to break through?

1.    Jaymes and James: Male Friends 20-35 (+25% to Average)

This is the Chippendales dancers duo, and the TAR producers are tapping into the old casting trick of putting in racers who make their living based on their looks.  They are far and away the team with the profile that has the best track record.  A crazy 58% of the time, young-ish male friends teams make it to leg 11.  In fact, it’s worth looking at those who didn’t make it to leg 11 to see what’s going on: Avi and Joe (Season 6 early exit in Iceland – took the long route); Connor and Jonathan (Season 17 Glee club – Connor was useless on the challenges); Gary and Dave (Season 5 – hipster goofy guys); Zev and Justin’s first go-round on Season 15 (lost passport); Ryan and Chuck (Motorcycle buddies eliminated first in season 7): Joey “Fitness” and Danny from last season (Jersey Shore wannabes).  If you look at the young guy friends who didn’t make it to late in the season, they tended to be the non-athletic types, Joey “Fitness” and Danny excepted.  If the teams are athletic, as Jaymes and James appear to be, then it is almost a lock that they’ll make it deep into the Amazing Race.  So the only question will be whether they have the basic smarts necessary to get to the challenges and to figure out the challenges.   If so, then these guys should be considered the favorites.   I’ll be watching closely.

How have models or those who make their living based on their looks done?  By my calculation, there have been 19 teams that make their living based primarily on their looks (cheerleaders included).  Three of these teams have won it all (16%).  Two all-male “model” teams have competed, (Derek & Drew, Twins/Models from Season 3, and Tyler and James — not siblings, but models — from season 10).  We know that twins struggle, relatively, but Tyler and James won it all.  So the bar is high for this Chippendale Dancer buddy team!  Time to back it up, Jaymes and James!

OK—so there are my pre-season power rankings for The Amazing Race 21.  Keep reading The Amazing Race Analysis blog for the best analysis of The Amazing Race!

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