ATLANTA — Kanstantin Sivtsov kept his tires full Sunday. The rest was easy.
Sivtsov, competing in his first race in the United States, survived a rash of flat tires on the streets of Atlanta to win the Tour de Georgia.
Sivtsov won the weeklong Georgia race as his Team High Road teammate Greg Henderson won the 63-mile final stage — 10 laps on a 6-3-mile course.
The course in downtown Atlanta was swept before the race, but late-morning rain washed debris back onto the streets, possibly including broken glass from the March 14 tornado that hit downtown Atlanta. Windows in high-rise hotels and office buildings near Centennial Olympic Park — the site of Sunday's start and finish — are still being replaced.
According to one estimate, there were 17 flat tires in the first 30 minutes of Sunday's final stage.
"The problem was the rain was kicking up a lot of debris on the road," Henderson said. "As the course dried out a little more, that stuff doesn't stick to your tires as much."
Sivtsov, 25, took the overall lead by winning Saturday's grueling climb up Brasstown Bald Mountain, the signature stage of the event.
Sivtsov, a native of Belarus, had a lead of four seconds entering Sunday's final day of the seven-day event, but the rash of flat tires worried Team High Road owner and general manager Bob Stapleton.
"We were really nervous because if Consta would have had a flat at the wrong time he would have lost the race," Stapleton said. "We were super-nervous about that, but we were pretty lucky."
Of the 116 riders who started Sunday's race, 98 finished. Stapleton estimated there were at least 25 flat tires, but only two by his eight team members.
Henderson, from New Zealand, also won Stage 3 from Washington to Gainesville.
Henderson beat Argentina's Juan Jose Haedo in the final sprint Sunday. Haedo won a Stage 2 sprint in Augusta to beat Henderson.
Henderson was a factor throughout the week despite having surgery in February to remove his gallbladder.
"It was heck of a comeback and it shows what a fighter and competitor he is," Stapleton said.
Sivtsov, the 2004 Under-23 world champion, finished 32nd in the 2007 Tour de France and could be a rising star on the High Road team which also includes George Hincapie, who finished 13th overall this week.
Sivtsov, who lives and trains in Italy, said the Tour de Georgia should be a good preparation for the Giro d'Italia. He confirmed he plans to compete again in this year's Tour de France.
"This was a weeklong race with mountains, flats, speed," Sivtsov said.
Sivtsov said his first impression of U.S. cycling fans was positive.
"Crowds were very happy for all the riders, first or last," he said.
Stapleton said the team's strategy was to promote Sivtsov for the overall championship because he had the best chance to conquer Brasstown Bald Mountain.
"We have a lot of sprint talent but we don't have a lot of guys like Consta, guys who can ride in the mountains, so they get their chances here quickly," Stapleton said.
"The thing I like about him is he's a humble guy. He works well as a teammate. He doesn't have a big head but he's got a huge work ethic ... and he's got that athletic talent."
Sivtsov, pronounced SVITZ-sov, also has a name that even Stapleton finds difficult to pronounce, so he sticks with his "Consta" nickname.
"You want to say it right, so he's graciously allowed us to shorten his first name," Stapleton said.
Australia's Trent Lowe finished four seconds behind Sivtsov in the overall standings. Race favorite Levi Leipheimer was third, 14 seconds behind.
Tyler Hamilton, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist who is returning from a two-year suspension for blood doping, finished 92nd overall and 53rd in Sunday's stage.