By STEVE SPINKS
A COUPLE of weeks ago Alstonville's Clayton Fettell led a field of some of the best triathletes in the world.
The 19-year-old was competing in an International Triathlon Union points race in Macau.
He led by 35 seconds on the bike leg in front of high-profile athletes Peter Robertson, Bryce Quirk and Jan Rahula.
Robertson and Quirk are Austral-ian champions and Rahula claimed the bronze medal at the Sydney Olympic Games.
The sheer audacity of the youngster's attack must have riled his older competitors.
Unfortunately, it was also Fettell's undoing.
"I was out in front and a bit excited," Fettell said back at Alstonville.
"It was a bit wet on the track and I went down."
He quickly recovered and started again, but the chasing pack, which included Robertson, soon caught up.
In fact, it wasn't until Robertson asked him what was wrong with his leg that Fettell noticed he had a deep gash on his knee.
"I still felt okay so I kept going," Fettell said. "But I was losing so much blood I started getting head spins."
Fettell was forced to abandon the race with 10km still to go on the bike.
The Macau triathlon now haunts him a bit.
The inevitable question: What if?
"It was a good taste, I guess," Fettell laments.
"My goal is to be like Craig Walton and get out of the water first."
The fact that the former Trinity Catholic College student has a strong background in swimming will help in that goal.
The race in Macau was the end of a hectic four-month journey which included an extended stay training and racing in Germany.
Fettell was a guest of Michael Raelert, a promising German junior triathlete whose brother Andreas finished 12th in Sydney and sixth at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Fettell met Raelert when the German was training at Alstonville a few years ago.
He joined Raelert's five-man team, TV Lemgo, which competed in the first division triathlon bundesliga.
The triathlon season in Germany is run as a teams event with the five-man teams competing against 18 other outfits.
It's a fully professional sport and TV Lemgo finished fourth overall with Fettell's best finish a 24th.
He was the youngest competitor and Raelert has invited Fettell back next season, in between the young triathlete's studies in nursing at Southern Cross University.
Next for Fettell is the Evans Head First National Triathlon tomorrow.
However, the 750m ocean swim, 20km bike ride and 5km run is nowhere near the Olympic distance (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run) races he's been doing for six months.
At one stage Fettell raced 10 Olympic distance triathlons in 10 weeks.
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But don't think the Alstonville teenager will be taking the Evans Head race lightly.
"I have a couple of mates competing," he said. "So there's a bit on the line ... bragging rights."
After Evans Head, Fettell will prepare for the Commonwealth Games trials in St Kilda in October; the Noosa Triathlon in November; and the Australian series in February to April.
n The Evans Head First National Triathlon tomorrow starts at 9am with registrations between 7am and 8am at the surf lifesaving club.
Elite athletes like Fettell and Lennox Head professional Pip Taylor will be competing, but the event is also promoted as a family friendly race and is a good distance for beginners.
Former Olympic swimming gold medallist Duncan Armstrong will be in the field.
The North Coast Academy of Sport again will use the race as a selection event.
More than 200 people are expected to race.