Facing off against their alliance members, Cowboys Brendon and Jackson and Super Sikhs Jaskirat and Anurag, Ashleigh and Amanda felt cautiously confident about their chances in the finale.
“You can see in the last two legs where we’re down to the final three teams just how the mood is so different,” Amanda told 10 play. “There’s a lot of seriousness and a bit of panic because you know how much is riding on your back.
“Going into it, we felt confident but the two teams we were with were really strong, they had beat us before so anything could happen. You just never knew.”
From the second leg onward, the pair barely dipped into the back of the pack – and if they did, it was only for a few challenges before they jumped their way back to the front. With eight wins and two first class passes, they were obviously the team to beat, but not everyone saw that initially.
“I think we went into the race completely underestimated,” Amanda said. “A lot of the other teams, I don’t think thought we were going to be a threat.”
Even viewers at home mistakenly assumed Ashleigh and Amanda would find themselves eliminated early on in the competition.
“It feels really good to be able to break those stereotypes and show people that girls can be as strong and as competitive as anyone else,” Amanda added.
This year, the race added a handful of new twists and turns including must-play U-Turns as well as the salvages and sabotages.
“These new rules that were introduced added more of a social aspect to the game,” Ashleigh explained.
“We knew going into it that we’d be a threat, especially when we started doing really well and winning a lot of legs,” she continued. After bonding with a few of the teams, the ‘originals’ alliance began to form, and only strengthened over time.
Made up of the Gold Coast Girls, the Cowboys, the Super Sikhs and siblings Skye-Blue and Jake, the originals alliance agreed to help each other throughout the race and support each other as much as possible (so long as it didn’t affect their own placement in the race), and hoped to bring each other to the final.
“We [decided] we wouldn’t U-Turn each other, we wouldn’t sabotage them, they wouldn’t sabotage us and we wanted to get to the final three,” Ashleigh said. “It’s cool that we made that happen, but also it just worked out that way!”
“To be able to get there with these guys was awesome and we never turned our back on our loyalties,” Amanda added. “We stayed honest and loyal to our friendships, that’s the type of people we are.”
But the final legs saw the alliance shift aside for a tense race between three very strong teams. The Cowboys managed to slip ahead in a few challenges, but Ashleigh and Amanda made up for time during a puzzle. All that was left was a run up Mount Kosciusko.
“We never gave up,” Amanda said. “At that point we thought we could catch them... and it was just all fight. We were never going to give up, we were going to race until we got to that mat. It’s not over until you’re on the mat.”
Scrambling up the steep incline, Ashleigh and Amanda were hot on the heels of the cowboys, trying to get a clear idea of how far the final Pit Stop was.
“We could see the flags but it was just over the hill so we couldn’t see Beau but we knew how far off we were,” Ashleigh said.
“All I could think of was [that] I’ve never been so close to winning $250,000,” Amanda added. “We just needed to get one step in front of the boys... It was really tough,” she said, tearing up.
“We were so close.”
Ashleigh admitted that it was difficult to even see the preview for the grand finale, knowing what was to come.
“I know how close we were. It was a matter of metres,” she said. “I feel like we did such a good job and if was an extra kilometer, I reckon we could have caught up.”
Despite being heartbroken that they missed out on the top prize by such a short margin, Ashleigh and Amanda couldn’t be more thrilled for Brendon and Jackson.
“From the start they were our closest alliance and, if any other team was going to win the race, we wanted them to win,” Amanda said.
“They absolutely deserve it,” Ashleigh added.
“It’s beautiful they won,” Amanda continued. “It’s bittersweet that we didn’t win, but to lose to them... we’re so happy.”