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Why give up your bike? The story of a cycling hero

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To look at the sacrifices one man made for his teammate.

Preparation and materials

  • Note: In this story, some of the factual details have been altered slightly to enhance the drama and make the dilemma more interesting for the purposes of discussion.
  • There are various ways in which this assembly may be ‘performed’.
    – It could be delivered by one or more speakers. Here it is set out for four speakers.
    – Additional students could be involved – as here, as riders in the Tour de France, complete with their bikes or, perhaps, just the handlebars of bikes.
    – You might like to show some appropriate images as the story unfolds.
  • For the format given below, you will need five to seven students.
  • More information about the Tour de France can be found at: www.letour.fr, including a map, which you will need to display during the assembly (or you can substitute a map of France), and pictures of the famous ‘maillot jaune’ worn by the winner. You will also need images of current riders and René Vietto, plus one of him by Antonin Magne’s damaged bike, and the means to display them during the assembly.
  • The 'stage' area could be set up with a bicycle leaning against the speaker's table. Some real or dummy microphones would be useful props for the ‘roving reporters’ to hold. The speakers stand to either side of the stage.

Assembly

Voice off  Motive: the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action; the reason for the action.

Scene 1

The speakers come to the centre of the stage.

Speaker 1
Have you ever wondered why a person makes a particular decision or takes a particular action? Maybe they made a completely different choice from the one you would make. Why did they? What was their motive?

Show map of Tour de France or France.

Speaker 2
We have a story to tell you that involves motives – in this case, the story of a sportsman.

Have you ever heard of the Tour de France? Most of you will know a little bit about this famous race. Every year, about 20 teams of bike riders from different parts of the world compete to see who can win this incredibly gruelling race around France.

Speaker 3 The whole event takes three weeks to complete. The teams ride all the way round the country, from northern France to the south – and back again – striving to be the first across the finish line in Paris.

Speaker 4 Some days they race across the flat countryside of France and that's hard work, but the biggest challenge is tackling the steep mountain roads. The rider who accumulates the most points in the mountains stage wins the prized ‘king of the mountains’ red polka dot jersey.

Speaker 1 The Tour de France has become increasingly popular with British sports fans, following the success of Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012. Prior to that, for a number of years, there had been scandals concerning riders who had taken drugs to assist them in their attempts to win.

Show images of current competitors.

Speaker 2
We want to tell you a story about something that happened during the Tour de France a number of years ago, before performance-enhancing drugs started ruining this very popular sport.

Scene 2

Show photo of René Vietto.

Speaker 3
In those days, all you had to rely on was your bike and being as fit as possible. After that it was a matter of luck, but luck was not on the side of a 20-year-old rider named René Vietto.

Speaker 4 When the French selectors picked René Vietto for their team in 1934, they came in for a lot of flack because he was a relatively young and inexperienced rider. What no one realized at the time was that René Vietto would become one of the most famous sportsmen associated with the race and for a very unexpected reason.

Let's go to our roving reporters for an update on today's leg of the race.

The riders mime their painful struggle on an uphill part of the course. The roving reporter – very excited – steps forward with a microphone.

Roving reporter 1
The French spectators are going mad here in the mountains.

Spectators cheer the riders on!

Roving reporter 1
The French national team is leading and looks set to win today's stage of the Tour de France, with popular team leader Antonin Magne unstoppable at the front of the pack.

One of the riders plays team leader Antonin Magne, on his bike, looking happy and confident and determined to do his best.

Roving reporter 1
In second place is newcomer René Vietto, who's doing an incredible job for such a young rider. He's really giving it everything he's got!

The spectators cheer on their heroes with phrases such as 'Vive la France!', 'Bonne chance, Magne!', Allons-y!', 'Courage mon brave!'

Roving reporter 2
It's vitally important for the French team to maintain its lead today if it is to win the overall race this year.

More cheers for Magne.

Roving reporter 2
But what's happening? A tragedy is unfolding before our very eyes!

The crowd gasps as, in slow motion, team leader Magne falls from his bike.

Roving reporter 2
It's terrible! Magne has fallen, it's a nightmare! But, wait! He's getting up! He's not hurt, but his front wheel is ruined. He won't be able to continue the race! What a tragedy!

Roving reporter 1 Look! This is unbelievable!

Still in slow motion, a rider playing René Vietto moves towards his team leader. He presents Antonin Magne with his own bike.

Roving reporter 1
The crowd can't believe their own eyes! Vietto is giving his team leader his own bike. This is extraordinary. What a sacrifice this young man is making. He could easily have ridden straight past his leader and gone on to win the race himself, but he has chosen to stop and help his teammate!

Magne, deeply grateful, takes the bike and disappears from view as Vietto sinks back to the ground beside the useless bike.

Roving reporter 1
The crowd is going wild with cheers for Vietto, but he doesn't seem to hear them as he sadly watches Magne disappearing from sight.

Show image of Vietto with the useless bike.

Scene 3


Speaker 1 Twenty-year-old René Vietto has saved the day for the French team! Without hesitation, he gave up his bike to the team leader. What do you think you would have done in those circumstances?

Speaker 2 Some newspaper reporters called him mad, but the French people loved him. They hailed him as a hero for his unselfish actions.

Speaker 3 René said he did it because he genuinely thought of cycling as a team sport. He said the team is more important than the individual. Where do you stand on that point? Do you agree with René Vietto?

Speaker 4 It sounds a bit old-fashioned these days, but what René did was 'the honourable thing'. Should honour play any part in sport and life these days?

Speaker 1 We hope you enjoyed the story and that it has given you something to think about.

The speakers start to leave the stage  . . .  but suddenly Speaker 1 has an afterthought  . . .

Speaker 1
Oh, you might like to know that the story didn't end there. Guess what happened the very next day? Anton Magne was in the lead again. In second place was René Vietto. What would've been the worst thing that could have happened?

Speaker 2 Magne crashed again?

Speaker 1 Magne crashed again! His bike was damaged beyond repair.

Speaker 3 Did René Vietto come to the rescue a second time?

Speaker 4 Nobody would make that sacrifice again. No one would ask a teammate to do such a thing. Nobody would expect it.

Speaker 3 Magne could hardly believe his eyes when he saw René climb off his bike and hand it to him. Magne thanked him, jumped on the bike and went on to win that leg. The French national team won the Tour de France that year, thanks to René Vietto.

Speaker 1 Is that pushing the idea of team spirit too far? You decide.

The speakers leave.

Time for reflection

As the leader of a successful team, Antonin Magne's name went into the history books. He is still remembered as a great sportsman – and deservedly so. However, the person people never forgot was René Vietto – the young man who sacrificed his own glory for the sake of the team.

René would have reached his prime in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but the Second World War meant the race was cancelled, which put an end to René's hopes of ever winning the world's greatest bike race. He was often referred to as ‘King René’ – a nickname that recalled his noble actions in 1934. Although he died in 1988, he is still a hero today in his own country.

What do you think Antonin Magne was thinking and feeling during this series of events?

How would you have felt if you were the person who won but only because a teammate sacrificed his or her own glory for your sake?

Jesus thought that suffering was worthwhile if it would bring good results and real victory comes from putting others first when necessary. The example that he set is one reason people remember him today, centuries after he died for what he believed in.

Christians try to recognize that they are all part of each other, working together, like a 'team'. Paul describes it as being like the different parts of the body working together.

Publication date: September 2014   (Vol.16 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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