The season's still a bit young, but any thoughts as to what riders might become top-level pros next year? For the sake of discussion, let's omit the current Pro Continental teams that used to be ProTeams. Not just because Cofidis, Europcar, FDJ, and/or Geox might regain that status this offseason, but also because they're still pretty high-profile teams. Ask an up-and-coming young French rider straight-up whether he'd rather ride for Bretagne-Schuller or Cofidis, and I guarantee you he'll have a strong preference.
The first and most obvious is Andrea Guardini. He certainly won't hurt his cause if he can show us anything at the Giro, but with about half a dozen wins to his credit already, including one in Qatar against the likes of Francesco Chicchi, Theo Bos, and Heinrich Haussler, I'll be stunned if he's not in Lampre pink and purple this time next year. Particularly since Petacchi isn't getting any younger.
The name Jonas Vangenechten has also caught my eye. Solidly fifth at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, better than the top sprinters on the day for Europcar, Ag2r, and Cofidis, and just a fingertip away from Tyler Farrar. He's also got a 1.2 win in Belgium to his credit this season, and one last season. One remembers that a single head-turning ride got Sep Vanmarcke a look, and it could easily happen again.
Alex Caño was fifth in the Volta a Catalunya's toughest stage, the Vallnord climb to Andorra where someone with his same initials absolutely shattered the field. Caño's ride on the day was better than those of Ivan Basso, Xavi Tondó, and Cadel Evans, to name a few. He's 28 years old and has a fairly extensive palmares in smaller races.
Perhaps this isn't a fair pick, considering the little qualifications I set aside above, but you have to be impressed with Jérôme Coppel's ride at the Vuelta a Murcia. He was right with Contador and Menchov for the entire race, even in the time trial, and finished with them on the podium. Depending on what he, and Saur-Sojasun, might be able to do in the Tour de France, he could perhaps be headed for greener pastures.
I wouldn't say I see Mitchell Docker latching on with any current ProTeam, but I think he's a lock for the new GreenEDGE team, so if they get the status, count him in. Fine ride at Paris-Roubaix, a top ten at Gent-Wevelgem, even a decent showing at the Tour Down Under for the Aussie national squad.
Lastly, I'd say Staf Scheirlinckx's smart, if not eye-popping, ride at the Tour of Flanders will probably get him back to the big time. While it's hard to equate a stage race and a single day race, it reminds me of Marc de Maar's ride at last year's Tour of California getting him back on with a ProTeam.
I feel like I'm forgetting someone obvious, but those are the names that come to mind for me.