Murray Bridge cycle speedway hosts Australia-England match, Sophie Mitchell makes international debut | VIDEO, PHOTOS

Murray Bridge hosted an international test match on Sunday in one of the unlikeliest sports.

Only days before Australia and England's best were due to meet on the cricket pitch at the Gabba, a crowd of about 100 watched the same two nations do battle at the Murraylands Cycle Speedway on Homburg Drive.

For those unaquainted with the sport, matches are contested on a oval-shaped shale track of about 100 metres - essentially a scaled-down version of a motor speedway - by riders on fixed-gear bicycles with no brakes, with body contact permitted.

Points are awarded for riders' finishing positions over a series of quick, four-lap races.

It was invented sometime around the 1920s, became hugely popular in the United Kingdom in the late 1940s, and had mostly faded back into obscurity by the 1970s.

South Australia is the only state where it is still practised, by Murray Bridge and three other clubs: Findon Skid Kids, Salisbury and Le Fevre.

It remains moderately popular in the UK and competitions also take place in Poland, Ireland and other nations.

A brochure by the local club describes it as family fun, excitement and action on a bike for all ages.

There are no age limits – even toddlers can try it – and the cost of participation is locally capped at $10 per family.

President Chris Clothier said the club had struggled a little in recent years, but that 45 to 50 riders still participated in fortnightly race meetings.

"We used to be included in what you'd call league racing downtown, but now we're trying to get back up there again," he said.

"The sport overall is starting to pick up in South Australia.

"It's a bit more professional over in the UK, but the Australian men won the world cup (in Adelaide) on Saturday night."

He said Murray Bridge's international match had proven profitable for the club and that the visiting riders had been impressed with its facilities.

"They said it was the quickest track they had ridden on all series," he said.

"It doesn't get chewed up like the tracks downtown."

Two local riders made the cut for the Australian team: 14-year-old Sophie Mitchell, who had donned the national colours for the first time at a world championship event in Adelaide on Saturday, and Brodie Wohlschlager.

Mr Clothier said it was "just phenomenal" that Sophie had got a chance to represent her country, especially at her age.

The women's team lost their match by eight points, 92-84, and the juniors went down 91-88, but the men had their revenge in the day's last event, winning 93-84.

World championship events will continue in Adelaide until December 3.


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