Q&A with local bike racers Mark and Ruste Sasser

Mark Sasser of Fresno strains for more speed as he competes in a recent cyclocross race. (Courtesy Mark Sasser)

Ruste Sasser of Fresno makes her way around the course during a mountain bike race. (Mark Sasser/Special to The Bee)

(Author’s note: This is a longer, more expansive version of the Q&A that will run on the Out There page in Thursday’s editions.)

When it comes to bike racing, few Fresno families are more involved than the Sassers. Mark Sasser, 43, is a fixture in the local cycling scene, wife Ruste Sasser, 33, races both road and mountain bikes and 14-year-old Cameron Sasser is one of the area’s top juniors.

But the Sassers’ lives changed dramatically in early 2012 when Mark was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease. Despite tremors in his right hand and other associated symptoms, Mark continues to race and even captured the single-speed division in last fall’s Homegrown Cyclocross Series.

In advance of Saturday’s Big Sandy Point to Point Mountain Bike Race, The Bee’s Marek Warszawski went riding with Mark and Ruste Sasser and later spoke with them about their love of bike racing and how they are coping with Mark’s condition.

Question: What do you look forward to most about racing Big Sandy?

Mark’s answer:  It’s one of the few point-to-point mountain bike races left. Downieville and the Big Sandy are the only two I can think of. Twenty-five years ago there was lots of them, and now there’s not. So that elevates its status in my mind.

Ruste’s answer: Most races are laps of two or three miles, so people can go out and pre-ride and it’s not a big deal. But with the Big Sandy, because it’s so rural, there’s no option for that. If you want to ride it, you have to dive in and see what it has in store for you.

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