When it comes to being hometown heroes, Lisa Thomson and Dirk De Ruyssher are a classic example of what makes Raglan such a unique community.
These friends are the creative minds behind the popular Karioi Classic event (July 31), and are also involved in everything from the community board and volunteer fire service, to the mountain bike club, school board of trustees and swimming club; as well as having extensive whakapapa links.
On paper the pair are polar opposites; Lisa grew up in Whaingaroa and has significant family links to the area, while Dirk, his wife and family moved to Raglan from Belgium. However, they share a mutual passion for adventure, community and encouraging activity and participation.
The Karioi Classic has grown from somewhat humble beginnings to something of a cult event; attracting enthusiasts from around New Zealand. As competitors race for the titles of King and Queen of Karioi, there is no shortage of competitive spirit.
With categories from the 43km Karioi Classic and 57 Karioi Classic XL to the heart-pounding 85km Karioi Classic Enduro, participants compete on mountain bikes, cyclo x, retro road bikes and even tandems.
The opportunity to ‘cycle the mountain’ came about seven years ago, when Lisa and Dirk established Raglan Events and Multisport Trust.
After living overseas for 10 years, Lisa returned home to Raglan in 2004. Dirk, his wife Lin and two boys had just moved permanently from Belgium to Raglan.
Embracing all that Raglan has to offer, Lisa and her two young children, quick to rediscover all that she loved about the town.
“I started training, particularly open water swimming, running and biking. Raglan just seems to be a perfect place for sports, with such a beautiful environment and the opportunity to engage with the wonderful outdoors.
“I grew up on a farm just south of Raglan on the coast, with access to the beach and Aotea Harbour, so I was already very happy. My parents have a very strong connection to this area. My dad’s family has been in the district since the 1880s and mum is Maori, two of my great, great + grandfathers, from this area were signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi, so for me, I feel a deep sense of connection.
“Dirk and I are best mates. We saw the potential for events and decided to run a triathlon series, Sea to Sand.
It was awesome, so we then thought about other opportunities and did our multisport event, Off Road Raglan Challenge, and finally we decided to focus on the Karioi Classic Cycle the Mountain.
“It’s a beautiful ride, with mixed terrain, gravel and sealed roads, gorgeous landscape – what more could you ask for? And most importantly we wanted to keep a real grass roots feel to our events, celebrating our community. We didn’t want them to be about the sponsors, but the participants.”
Dirk and Lisa are justifiably proud that the event has a strong local flavour and extensive input from businesses and people within the community.
To enter or for more information, visit karioiclassic.org.nz