ALTENBERG, Germany - USA Luge leaves Altenberg, Germany Sunday night after a pair of sixth place efforts as the World Cup program concluded along the border of the Czech Republic in unusually warm and humid conditions.
"It wasn't the luck of the draw, but more like the bad luck of the draw," said American Erin Hamlin, referring to the deteriorating conditions that favored earlier starters.
"My first run was actually better than my second, so I don't know how I could have gone faster unless I had some magic wax or something on my steels. It was super warm even at 7:00 this morning. The humidity was so high and the track frosted up super fast."
That was quite a statement, given that Hamlin was 18th in the opening heat, before posting the second best final leg.
Her enormous second run rally brought Hamlin to sixth place. Only Germany's Dajana Eitberger was faster than Hamlin in the last trip.
The 2009 World Champion from Remsen, N.Y., nominated to her third Olympic berth, could have called out for lunch as she held the leader's box that long before vacating.
"It's a bummer, but it's an outdoor sport. It's part of the game," continued Hamlin. "In other situations I could be on the other side of it which would be beneficial. It's still a top six and I'm definitely happy with that."
With temperatures in the mid-40s, Hamlin joined singles racer Chris Mazdzer and the doubles unit of Matt Mortensen and Preston Griffall to also finish sixth in the team relay which makes its Olympic debut on Feb. 13.
"The weather turned for the worse. It was really warm and foggy," added Mazdzer, of Saranac Lake, N.Y. "Unless you went early you had no chance. But we finished in third place overall in the relay (standings) and that's pretty good."
Germany's World Cup overall champion Natalie Geisenberger captured her seventh victory in eight races, thus clinching the overall World Cup crown for the second straight year. Later, she joined men's winner Felix Loch and doubles gold medalists Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt to place third in the relay. Russia and Canada took the gold and silver medals, respectively. Germany clinched the overall World Cup team relay title several weeks ago.
The German Olympians will skip the World Cup finals next weekend in Sigulda, Latvia to turn their attention to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games. They are expected to remain holed up in their home country for the remainder of the month, re-focusing on the mountains above the Russian Riviera. Official training in Krasnaya Polyana begins Feb. 4.
Geisenberger's two heats of 52.895 and 53.437 seconds totaled 1 minute, 46.332 seconds. Only a victory by teammate Tatyana Huefner last week in Oberhof, Germany prevented Geisenberger from sweeping the season.
Huefner settled for fourth place, with Eitberger fifth after her own remarkable comeback that saw her "win" the final leg with the heat's fastest time. She was merely 0.02 of a second faster than Hamlin.
Canada claimed second and third places with Alex Gough, the runner-up in 1:47.006, with teammate Kimberly McRae collecting her first career World Cup medal in 1:47.030.
Geisenberger's World Cup total is 785 points, with Huefner second at 551. Gough is third at 541 and stands to finish the campaign second in Huefner's absence.
Hamlin concluded two runs in 1:47.117. She's sixth-ranked on the season with 355 points.
Summer Britcher of Glen Rock, Pa., showed abundant speed midway through the opening heat, posting a fourth place intermediate time. But Altenberg plays into the hands of the experienced, and the 19 year old was getting her first taste of World Cup racing at this venue. She finished 14th in 1:47.467.
Kate Hansen of La Canada, Calif., the 2008 Junior World Champion, was 10th after one run and was moving into the top 10 halfway through the final leg. But the 21 year old lost valuable time in the 360 degree Kriesel (Circle) turn, and dropped to 21st place in 1:47.903.
Both Britcher and Hansen have been nominated to their first Olympic teams. Hansen is ninth in the World Cup standings with 284 points, and Britcher 15th at 217.
Russia captured the team relay in 2:25.570 on a day when Italy and Austria failed to finish the race, and Germany faltered at the end. Canada took second in 2:26.191, followed by Germany in 2:26.303. The USA's sixth place clocking was 2:27.701.
The final team relay standings of the season show Germany on top with 509 overall World Cup points, followed by Canada with 400, just ahead of the U.S. which concluded with 395 points.
The next team relay, excluding the European Championships in Sigulda, will be contested in Sochi on Feb. 13 and will mark the event's debut at the Winter Games.
The World Cup tour finals in Sigulda will offer women's singles followed by doubles on Saturday, with men's singles on Sunday to end the season.
Women’s Singles: 1) Geisenberger, Germany, 1:46.332; 2) Gough, Canada, 1:47.006; 3) McRae, Canada, 1:47.030; 6) Hamlin, USA, 1:47.117; 14) Britcher, USA, 1:47.467; 21) Hansen, 1:47.903
Team Relay: 1) Russia, 2:25.570; 2) Canada, 2:26.191; 3) Germany, 2:26.303; 6) USA (Hamlin, Mazdzer, Mortensen-Griffall), 2:27.701