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Sibling duo takes first place as 'Amazing Race Canada' moves to Montreal

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TORONTO - Motor-mouthed siblings Sukhi and Jinder Atwal went au naturel in La Belle Province to win their first leg of "The Amazing Race Canada" on Tuesday.

The Atwals picked up their pace by dropping trou at a Fast Forward nude modelling challenge, one which forced the frenetic pair to together hold an uncomfortable pose and carefully avert their eyes from one another.

"I don't know how we're going to explain this to mom and dad," joked Jinder. "Not going to lie, probably the most awkward thing I've ever done in my life."

While the siblings were flashing skin, Vancouver bartenders Ryan Steele and Rob Goddard survived by the skin of their teeth — finishing dead last yet again but finding a reprieve in the form of a non-elimination leg for the second time in three weeks.

This was an episode, however, that made even Olympic gold medallists Natalie Spooner and Meaghan Mikkelson appear mortal.

As the racers were whisked more than 5,500 kilometres from Paris to Montreal, the studiously stoic pair seemed to be indulging in some mild celebration — understandable, perhaps, given that they had won an unthinkable six of the past eight legs.

"This is our sixth time starting in first," boasted Meaghan, while her partner marvelled at the thinning field.

"It's almost like we're getting to that big U.S.A game at the end," enthused Natalie.

Others, meanwhile, vowed to finally rival the dominant duo.

"We're pretty sick and tired of just scraping by," pledged Mickey Henry, laconic partner of similarly mellow Pete Schmalz. "We're sick of Nat and Meg cleaning up."

"It's really embarrassing," agreed Pete.

"Now that there's only four legs left we're pretty much on the home stretch," added Mickey with uncharacteristic conviction. "No more funny business for Mickey and Pete. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

"Finally time for the good guys to start winning."

Trash talk over, the racers then gathered at the airport for a whooping celebration of Alain Chanoine and Audrey Tousignant-Maurice's Parisien engagement. She flashed a sparkling ring for the hockey players while the men hugged Alain.

"Congrats!" cheered Pete. "Can we come to the wedding?"

"Of course!" replied Audrey. "You're all invited!"

After the obligatory ring-fawning, the teams were off to the week's Road Block: a two-stage precision driving course that required a "quarter drift" — a 90-degree fish-tail — and a "reverse 180" high-speed turn on a rain-drenched course outside Montreal. (The Quebec setting allowed one more opportunity for the Atwals to showcase their unique version of French, with Jinder trying to galvanize his cab driver by shouting: "Rapido!")

Natalie and Meaghan were the first to succeed at the driving task, though no one struggled to any great degree — even Mickey, who Pete claimed drives like "a grandma," moved on easily.

Only Alain, who identified himself as a "stunt performer" and proclaimed his own driving "fast, safe and accurate," was seriously delayed, because one of the rules of "Amazing Race" seems to be that anyone who boasts of real-life competence at a task will inevitably flop when asked to do it on TV.

"We got here first..." Audrey began.

"And we're leaving last," concluded a chastened Alain, showing off the betrothed couple's sentence-finishing flair.

Next up, a Detour option that only sounded fun: a grilled cheese sandwich taste test, requiring teams to correctly identify 10 different varieties of gourmet dairy.

Since the alternative was a meticulous-sounding glass bead-blasting challenge, most teams cheerfully put their faith in fromage.

"This is going to be a cheesy challenge," grinned Mickey in anticipation.

"We think we're going to do gouda," added Pete, proving his partner correct.

Any enthusiasm soon melted away once it became clear that the differences between the 10 types of cheese were frustratingly subtle.

No team seemed more flustered than the hockey players, who argued ceaselessly over the correct way to approach the task.

"Grilled cheese could cost someone a half a million dollars," Natalie pointed out.

"Would you girls bicker somewhere else?" asked Mickey, struggling to concentrate over their sparring.

Mickey and Pete were the first to nail the challenge, and thus arrived at the Pit Stop moments before the hockey players.

"If eating grilled cheese was an Olympic sport —" mused Mickey.

"We'd be Olympians," laughed Pete.

Well, they would have indeed won the gold medal this week if not for the Atwals, who bypassed the Detour entirely in favour of the high-risk, high-reward Fast Forward option.

In an entertaining bit of gamesmanship, the true nature of the challenge was laid bare gradually. First, they were simply told to pose fully clothed. Then they were asked to strip to their underwear.

"I'm thinking, 'Did I shave my legs?'" Sukhi conceded.

When they were asked to get completely nude and return to their pose (with Sukhi just behind her brother, hands on his shoulder), they might have balked — but Rob and Ryan were in the same building attempting the same challenge, and given that only one team can complete the Fast Forward, there was no time to deliberate.

And so, as Jinder was fond of pointing out, the pair were in their birthday suits on his birthday.

"Don't look back," warned Sukhi.

"Don't look forward," replied Jinder.

Afterward, there was much understandable blushing.

"Let's just pretend like it never happened," suggested Jinder. "Thank God we didn't pick one of those intertwined poses."

Ryan and Rob didn't get all the way to the embarrassing nudity part of the challenge before finding out they were finished. Still, the pals doggedly charged ahead to the cheese challenge.

This episode included the revelation that Ryan survived testicular cancer as a teenager, an ordeal that he said strengthened his resistance to adversity.

And their performance in presumed defeat did showcase their tenacity. After 32 draining and unsuccessful attempts to categorize the cheese — during which time Alain and Audrey figured out the bead-making and sped to a fourth-place finish — the bartenders switched and headed over to shape some glass, the sky now black.

"We know we're going home," explained Rob. "We just decided to finish and finish strong."

Instead, what awaited was yet another last-place reprieve for the longtime friends — and the almost bizarre nature of that fortune wasn't lost on the duo, who will have to complete an extra Speed Bump during next week's trek to Charlottetown.

"We almost feel like we don't deserve another chance," Ryan said. "But we're going to take it."

— Follow @CP_Patch on Twitter.

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