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Cycling Hero

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the idea of sportsmanship by using the example of René Vietto.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need six speakers, who will need time to practise prior to the assembly. You may also like to include additional students to act as the cyclists involved in the race.

  • Have available an image of René Vietto (available at: the means to display it during the assembly.

  • Optional: you may wish to find out more information about the Tour de France (available at:

  • Note: it is effective to set the scene for the assembly with a display of bikes and cycling equipment at the front of the room.

  • Note: although the facts in the story in the assembly are correct, some details have been altered to enhance the drama and make the dilemma more interesting for the purposes of discussion.


Leader (voice off): A definition of ‘motive’ is ‘the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action; the reason for the action.’

Scene 1. (The speakers move 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 do that? What was their motive?

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 cyclists from different parts of the world compete to see who can win this 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 to cross the finishing line in Paris.

Speaker 4: On some days, the cyclists race across the flat countryside of France. This is hard work, but nothing compared to the steep mountain roads they have to climb.

Speaker 1: The Tour de France has had some bad press from time to time. Unfortunately, there have been scandals about cyclists taking drugs to enhance their performances.

Speaker 2: But we want to tell you a story about something that happened during the Tour de France just over 80 years ago. Something that teaches us a lot, whether about sport or life in general.

Speaker 3: When the French selectors picked René Vietto for their team in 1934, many people were worried that 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 an unexpected reason!

Show the image of René Vietto.

Speaker 4: Lets cross to our roving reporters for an update of todays leg of the race.

Scene 2. (The speakers move to the side of the stage to make room for the reporters.)

Roving reporter 1 (sounding excited): The French spectators are going mad here in the mountains. The French national team is leading in the Tour de France and looks set to win todays stage, with popular team leader Antonin Magne unstoppable at the front of the pack. In second place is newcomer René Vietto, whos doing an incredible job for such a young rider. He really is giving it everything hes got!

Roving reporter 2: It is crucial for the French team to maintain their lead today if they want to win the overall race this year. But whats happening? Oh no! A tragedy is unfolding before our very eyes. Its terrible! Magne has fallen. Its a nightmare! But wait! Hes getting up! Hes not hurt, but his front wheel is ruined. He wont be able to continue the race! What a tragedy! What a tragedy for France!

Roving reporter 1: But look! This is unbelievable! Truly unbelievable. I can’t believe what we are seeing!

Roving reporter 2: The crowd cant believe their 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 team mate.

Scene 3. (The speakers move back to the centre of the stage.)

Speaker 1: Twenty-year-old René Vietto saved the day for the French team! Without hesitation, he gave up his bike to the race 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: Vietto said that he did it because he genuinely thought of cycling as a team sport. He said that the team was 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 Vietto 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 then return with some afterthoughts.)

Speaker 2: Oh - you might like to know that the story didnt end there. Guess what happened the very next day? Antonin Magne was in the lead again. In second place was René Vietto. What wouldve been the worst thing that could have happened?

Speaker 3: Magne crashed again?

Speaker 4: That’s exactly right! Magne crashed again! His bike was damaged beyond repair.

Speaker 1: And did René Vietto come to the rescue a second time? Surely nobody would make that sacrifice again. No one would ask a team mate to do such a thing. Nobody would expect it.

Speaker 2: Actually, Magne could hardly believe his eyes when he saw Vietto climb off his bike and hand it to the team leader again! Magne thanked him, jumped on the bike and went on to win that leg. And the French national team won the Tour de France that year - thanks in large part to René Vietto.

Speaker 3: Is that pushing the idea of team spirit too far? You decide!

Time for reflection

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

Vietto would have reached his prime in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but the Tour de France was suspended during the Second World War, which put an end to his hopes of ever winning the worlds 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 throughout this series of events?

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

For Christians, Jesus is someone who thought that suffering was worthwhile if it would bring good results, that real victory came from putting others first. The example that he set is one reason why people remember him today, nearly 2,000 years after he died and came back to life. Christians try to recognize that they are all part of one other, working together like a team. In the Bible, St Paul likens this teamwork to the way in which different parts of the body work together.

You may wish to read from 1 Corinthians 12.14-26.

Publication date: February 2022   (Vol.24 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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