The second Saturday in June is a holy day for many cyclists in Sweden. Every year, approximately 15,000 cycling enthusiasts from over 30 different countries pedal the 300km Vätternrundan. The course stretches around Vättern, the second largest lake in Sweden.
For many years, Vätternrundan has been one of the biggest recreational bike races in the world, and participation continues to increase. This year the race set a new record in participants: 15,945 starters and 15,205 of them finished.
The first riders start at 8pm on Friday evening. Then groups of 50 start every two minutes until 5am on Saturday morning.
Gudrun Johansson, a nurse from Gothenburg, was one of the many participants. "I started early, a little before midnight, so I had time enough to complete all 300 kilometres," she said. "What I love most with Vätternrundan is to bike in middle of the summer night. It is quiet and dark, but still warm."
The organisers have always promoted the event as primarily for recreational riders: those who rarely race, but can still ride for long periods of time. There are also elite cyclists that race the event. They have their own group which starts at 4:30am on Saturday. They usually complete the course in about 7.5 hours.
Vätternrundan concludes a two week period of cycling events in the town of Motala, where the race centre is located. The other events are Tjejvättern (90km, for women only), Halvvättern (150km), Minivättern (2km, for kids), Eurosport Vättern GP (an elite race) and a cycling festival.