With Ben Allen on my right on the start line I knew who was going to lead out the swim…I managed to stay on the leaders’ feet for 3-4 minutes, but then gradually lost contact and found myself on my own in between 2 groups. I never got into a comfortable rhythm actually, which isn’t surprising after having done virtually no intensity in the pool in almost a year. The swim was short though ( I came out 7th in 16:10!) and I quickly found myself caught in T1 and starting the ride with female leader Brigitta Poor and Ciprian Balanescu of Romania. I put the hammer down as soon as we started the climb, put a gap instantly and felt great. However as we reached the first descent I got a bit carried away and crashed on a tight slippery corner. I was also already quite in the red by that point. Balanescu came back from behind alongside mountain bike specialist Pierric Brochet. I kept these guys in sight for a while, but also understood that I needed to ride at my own pace. My head wanted to race and fight but my body reminded me I hadn’t been kind to it this past year! On the 3rd lap however I started to feel better and I was surprised to arrive in T2 only a few seconds behind the Romanian rider. From that point on I just wanted to enjoy the run ahead, despite a tender Achilles and some killer steep climbs Nico Lebrun style. As planned I didn’t push the run, breathing heavily on the climbs and suffering on the descents but enjoying the (rare) moments of relief in between (sic). I crossed the line a happy man in 8th, some 16 min behind the winner Arthur Serrieres! Quick massage, BIG lunch, short nap and off we went, back on the road to Cluj where I was invited by the club/record shop/balearic DJ terrace Collectiva Gazette to DJ with them on that very same night! It was great to meet up and connect with the underground Romanian scene. Quite niche obviously (especially at a time when the city is literally invaded by hordes of kids for the EDM festival Untold…Armin Van Burren and co…ouch!) but they are pretty active and an oasis of culture. Much recommended if you’re in Cluj! On the Sunday we managed to eat some more meat (!), hike around the (touristy!) Turda gorge, bath in a natural salty lake, enjoy more meat…all in all a very memorable first taste of Romania! And on this note, expect to see me on the start line in Maui come late October!!!