Mario Cipollini is backing Tom Boonen to win Sunday's World Championship road race, noting that he was also 36 when he won back in 2002

Mario Cipollini knows a thing or two about winning the World Championships road race and is backing Tom Boonen to fare well should crosswinds affect Sunday’s event in Doha.

Riders will face a 250km route on Sunday, with 150 of those kilometres through the Qatari desert, where crosswinds could come into play to split the peloton, although Cipollini is not a fan of the UCI’s plan to reduce the race to 100km should the temperatures get too high.

If the race is reduced the peloton will not head out to the desert, instead simply competing over 100km on the finishing circuit on the Pearl Qatar.

With a full complement of nine riders in the race, Cipollini, the world champion in 2002, believes the Belgian team will be the one to take advantage of any echelons that could form before the race hits the finishing circuit.

“When the wind blows hard, Boonen has a great advantage over all the others,” Cipollini told “I think that Boonen is in great shape, physically and mentally. He is for me the big favourite for this World Championships.”

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Boonen knows the course well, Cipollini points out, having won the Tour of Qatar on four occasions. The Italian also dismisses the claim that Boonen is too old to challenge the likes of Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel.

“I was 36 when I became world champion in Zolder in 2002,” he said, noting that Boonen celebrates his 36th birthday the day before the race.