Boonen was speaking at the official presentation of the 2015 race, which start on Sunday with a 136km stage from Dukhan to Sealine Beach. The race also includes a 10.9km individual time trial and although riders will be using standard road bikes, the stage plays directly into Wiggins’ hands and could see him put valuable time into his major rivals.
Boonen, who has won the race four times, and enters with defending champion Niki Terpstra in his Etixx-QuickStep team, believes that Wiggins will need to but under severe pressure whenever the race his battered by expected crosswinds.
“The tactics won’t change,” Boonen told Cyclingnews when asked if Wiggins’ presence in the race would affect Etixx’s strategy.
“There’s not that many tactics involved in Qatar. It’s just about echelons and trying to be in the break every time. If we can get at Bradley we’ll try because he will ride a good time trial and it’s going to be difficult.
“He’s one of the main contenders but there are a few guys here. I speak about him because he’s got the 10K time trial and it will be hard if he’s always in the first group and you need to get 30 or 40 seconds back on him.”
Asked if Wiggins had any potential weakness in his armoury, Boonen merely paid him compliment, adding that the current World time trial champion and former Tour de France winner had the capacity to race over a number of terrains. Both riders will be looking for an early victory in Qatar, if anything to merely lay down a marker ahead of the Spring Classics.
“Overall he’s a very strong rider. He can ride the echelons, on the cobbles, and in the mountains. It won’t be a problem but we’ll try and drop him everywhere we can.”
The first stage could be decisive in the overall outcome of the race. Last year, on a similar course the peloton split to pieces with Terpstra laying his foundations for overall victory.
“The roads change every year so the approach to Sealine hasn’t changed and for sure the wind is going to play a big role there. We’ll have to wait and see how the wind is going to go but there could be a headwind and then more a side wind going into the final. We’ll try and make it a hard race.”