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'Amazing Race's' Phil Keoghan Previews Season 23: 'First Challenge Will Literally Take Their Breath Away'

The host tells THR that the 11 teams competing for the $1 million prize get a "shock to the system" in the first few hours of the race.

Amazing Race Group Phil Keoghan - H 2013
CBS

The Amazing Race is about to get underway once again.

Eleven teams will travel through four continents and nine countries, spanning more than 35,000 miles, in their quest to win the $1 million prize.

PHOTOS: ‘Amazing Race’ Season 23: Meet the 11 Teams Competing for $1 Million

Among the teams are former NFL teammates, married ER doctors, theater performers, childhood friends, baseball wives and NHL ice crew girls. Challenges will call for them to paraglide over Iquique, Chile, subject themselves to a freezing-water plunge in Norway and take part in Formula One racing in Abu Dhabi.      

Ahead of the reality show's premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS, Emmy-nominated host Phil Keoghan gave The Hollywood Reporter a preview of what's to come in the show's 23rd season.

What can you tell us about the upcoming season?

It's a pretty eclectic mix of people. We really have the whole gamut there, from people living off the grid to people who are ER doctors to hardworking blue-collar workers to others making a living on the ice. They're very eclectic and pretty intense competitors.

How intense will the challenges be?

Right out of the gate, we're heading to South America, and the first challenge will literally take their breath away. It's always nice to have them doing something that takes their breath away in the first few hours of the race. It lets them know right at the beginning -- it's a shock to the system, they're jet-lagged, and it shocks them into the fact that they are on the Race. We are all about stirring things up for the teams and making sure they get surprised just like the viewers. We try to keep it exciting for teams and the viewers, so they turn on the show and don't know what to expect.

What are some of the locations you'll be traveling to this season?

Right out of the gate, we're going to Chile, so down on the western coast of South America, a place called Iquique, which I visited about 15 years ago for a shoot I was doing for Discovery. It was very cool to be back there. It's a unique part of the world -- one of the driest places in the world. Then we head further inland, right into the Andes Mountains and the eastern coast of South America. Then we go to Lisbon, Portugal, and Norway. And as always, there are a few surprise destinations, which is one of the great things about the show.

It seems like every season there is some big moment when a team makes a big mistake, like the rockers James and Abba getting eliminated after a passport went missing, and last season when Jessica and John were eliminated while in possession of an express pass. Will we see anything like that this season?

I wouldn't want to let you down. There are always big mistakes that are made. Those are big turning points in the show, and thankfully every season we're able to deliver on that. Essentially, when you put people together in a situation like this, there is the potential for things to go right and for some things to go wrong as well.

EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: 'Amazing Race' Season 23: First Look at New Opening Credits

After 23 seasons, are there still things that surprise you during the course of the race?

There are always things that surprise me. You can't go around the world and take part in an adventure like this, with 12 shows and 21 days, and not be surprised by the weather, things that break down. This is very different than any show in a studio, where things are more predicable. With our show, you don't know what can happen from minute to minute. Flights can get canceled, bolts can fall out of the wheel of a plane about to take off, teams can take another flight and get ahead of us, bags can get lost, weather can ruin a particular challenge that we've set up. There are so many variables.

Anything else you can reveal about this season?

There are great locations, lots of surprises, great personalities, competitive people -- and a satisfying finish for viewers.