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"The Amazing Race" season 26 gets underway

The race is on.

Wednesday sees the start of "The Amazing Race" season 26, which finds 11 couples racing around the world and competing for the $1 million prize -- and bragging rights as "Amazing Race" champs.

Six of the couples are already in relationships, but the other five pairs don't know each other...yet. They meet for the very first time when the race gets underway.

"Usually we have people who know each other really well. In this particular case, we have five blind dates and six regular dates," said Bertram van Munster, "The Amazing Race" co-creator and executive producer. "Going on a blind date to a restaurant is one thing, but going on a blind date around the world is like rolling the dice in a big way."

Some of the established couples may be familiar to viewers. There's Jonathan Knight of the New Kids on the Block with his partner, Harley Rodriguez, as well as Olympic athletes Aly Dudek and Steven Langton, who took home bronze medals for the U.S. in short track speed skating and bobsledding, respectively. Also in the mix is a doctor, along with a pageant consultant, professional dancer and a pair of lawyers.

Knight's bandmates are excited to see him partake in the long-running CBS reality series.

"As a group we are very proud of Jon for even doing this," Danny Wood told CBS News. "I want to know how he's done and then we'll see how proud I am," joked Joey McIntyre.

As for Knight, he's been a longtime fan of the award-winning series, which premiered in 2001.

"For the last four seasons I called the casting company asking if I could be on the show," Knight said. "And every year, our schedules conflicted. So this year I got the phone call saying that they were doing couples and asked if I was interested in doing it."

"Actually a fan asked me to do the Canadian version, and I said, 'No, I wouldn't do it.' And now I ended up doing it four years later with Harley," Knight revealed.

At the start of the race, Jonathan (left) and Harley (right) must run through a muddy obstacle course ending in an icy bath in order to win their tickets on one of two flights to Tokyo, Japan on "The Amazing Race." Monty Brinton/CBS

Knight said "The Amazing Race" was "definitely something out the box for me," adding, "I had a great time. It was an adventure that will be with me for the rest of my life."

Meanwhile, Knight, along with the rest of this season's contenders, have had to stay tight-lipped on the race results.

"Me and Harley haven't told anybody a thing, which coming from me is pretty good," Knight said.

"Jon's a good fibber. He's always been a good fibber," said McIntyre, before adding with laughter, "And that's a good way of me saying he's a lying son of a bi***!"

"The Amazing Race" kicks off with a 90-minute premiere on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 9:30 p.m. ET, before moving to its regularly-scheduled timeslot on Friday, Feb. 27, at 8 p.m. ET.

Check out the gallery above for more on this season's contestants.