Noah Metzler is on the doorstep of becoming a professional cyclist.

Noah Metzler is on the doorstep of becoming a professional cyclist.

After graduating from Grandview Heights High School in 2006 he spent the next year taking an extraordinary leap from a novice cyclist to one of the elite. At 21 years old, he'll be one of the youngest riders in the Category I-II races today in the Tour de Grandview.

But despite his youth and quick ascension to a Category I cyclist, Metzler is no child prodigy. He always was interested in sports and has played soccer and hockey and run cross country, which valued continuous energy as much as bulk and power. The bike thing just sort of happened.

"I had done some recreational mountain biking and I played soccer," Metzler said. "I had always been interested in competitive cycling. I watched the Tour de France. What got me into it was a friend of mine who did it."

That friend was Sam Whitley, also a Grandview Heights graduate, and while he still remains connected to the cycling world, Metzler has done what's possible to try to take it over. Now a member of the Cleveland-based RGF Solutions/Panther cycling team, Metzler will be making his third appearance in a race that has become a regular part of his summer since moving from St. Louis the summer before his junior year.

Never having witnessed the Tour de Grandview from anywhere other than his bicycle seat as a competitor, Metzler was 10th in the Category I-II race last year and won both Category III-IV races in 2006. He had one summer during which he lived in Grandview but didn't compete in the Tour de Grandview and that was in 2005, when a school-affiliated trip made him leave town the day of the race. But something happened before he left that had him thinking about racing when he returned.

Whitley's mother, Julie, has a position on the Grandview Community Association and helps set up out-of-town cycling teams with host families, giving them a chance to save on hotel costs. Metzler's first full summer in Ohio was 2005, and that year Julie set it up that two members of the New England-based Colavita Olive Oil team would be staying with the Metzler family and two others with the Whitley family.

With headquarters nearly a day's drive away, Colavita showed up the day before the race with its team of riders, a mechanic and plenty of bikes. They parked those bikes in the Whitleys' garage and Metzler spent some time there discussing those bikes and cycling in general with the Colavita mechanic.

"It was just neat to see," Metzler said. "They had really nice bikes and we were kind of looking at them and talking with the mechanic. Seeing the riders and being around them was motivating."

The only problem was Metzler didn't get to see them race. He already had made the decision that he would try cycling. He had gone on an Internet forum for avid cyclists and found a professional rider who was selling his old bike for what Metzler considered a good deal.

That started it all. With a bike capable of competing in real events, Metzler began training for his first race. The PUR Tour was scheduled for August in Mason, and he planned to be there to compete in the under-18 junior race. Whitley also was there.

The race went well, with Metzler finishing fifth and making it to the awards podium. He hadn't trained that rigorously and didn't have a coach, yet he was able to finish ahead of all but four members of the field. That was his final race for a while. He took up soccer again, playing for Grandview in the fall, but there was something growing inside of him that made it his last year of competitive soccer. He had found something better.

"It was the whole atmosphere for racing," Metzler said. "It was fun, but at the time during the race, it was hard. But at the end when I got on the podium and made a little money and got some prizes and stuff, I thought, 'Hey this is cool, I could get used to this.'"

In the spring he decided to go for it. In his first senior race, which was a Category IV race in Riley, Metzler was sixth. A month later he had hired a personal cycling coach, and by June 2007 Metzler had earned enough points to be a Category I rider, the highest level among amateurs. The ascent to Category I took him 14 months, a remarkably short time.

"That is absolutely unheard of," said Robert Fernandez, the founder of the RGF Solutions/Panther cycling team. "It's rare."

Fernandez is a Category II rider and has been a competitive cyclist for more than 15 years, but it wasn't until 2006 that he decided to use that passion as the main marketing arm for his business RGF Sports Marketing. That year he was putting together a cycling team in which his company would be the title sponsor -- and he was looking for talent.

Andy Moskul, a cyclist from Cleveland who attends Ohio State and is a year older than Metzler, told Fernandez at the 2006 Tour de Grandview that he might want to check out this rider from the Category III-IV race. He told him his name was Noah Metzler, a 19-year-old who had gone from a beginner to a Category III rider in a little less than four months.

Looking for fresh faces for his new venture, Fernandez took heed of Moskul's words and what he saw was impressive as Metzler won both Category III-IV the races.

Metzler won two races in 2007 -- the PUR Tour in Mason (Category III) and the Hueston Woods Race (Category IV) in Oxford -- on his way to becoming the fourth ranked Category I road race cyclist from Ohio behind Upper Arlington's Kirk Albers, Jeremy Grimm of Orrville and Peter Bauer of Mason. He's the top-ranked U23 cyclist in Ohio. The fact that the top-ranked Albers is 39 has given Metzler the idea that this is only the beginning.

"Once you turn 30 they have age categories for that," he said. "They have guys that are still doing it when they're 50 and it's really competitive because then you have guys that were once professionals."