There's a lot of things that go into getting prepared for a race and if you're planning your first one, this guide should help in outlining how to go about it:
As I briefly described in my article about entering a race it is essential that you first have experience with group riding and you are confident riding closely in a group because it can get awfully tight in a racing bunch.
You don’t have to have ridden on the course before but it’s a good idea to check out what it looks like. Google Maps can help you in this respect. Wind direction will largely influence the outcome of the race. Identify which parts of the course you will be facing a headwind/crosswind or tailwind. This will help you know where to position yourself in the group to avoid doing time in the wind and can also be used to your advantage to get a result.
For breakfast - eat what you normally eat. There’s no point changing your breakfast completely on race day as it can mean you get an upset stomach. Although a breakfast with slow release energy is the best, such as porridge. Avoid eating at less than 2 hours before you race as when exercising heavily it tends to want to come back up again...
What to take:
Arriving There & Sign on
Once you've got there find somewhere good to park where you can set up your rollers/turbo trainer. Sign on should be open around an hour before your race starts where you can give in your racing license in exchange for your race numbers (you'll get it back once you've finished.)
Look around for how other riders are pinning their numbers on as depending on which way round the course is going clockwise or anticlockwise on a closed circuit your numbers will preferably further over on your jersey to one side depending so it is clearer to see by the race commissaires. Do not fold or cut down your numbers!
Take the shock out of your legs in a half an hour warm up. It is especially important if your race is really short like most 4th cat road races of about 30 minutes long. You don't want to be completely blown away when the race gets underway.
There are various ways of warming up but mostly revolve around the principle of doing the following:
10 minutes just riding. Add some intervals. Spot of tempo. Cool down for a few minutes. Race. If you're lucky you may have time to ride around the course before hand so keep an eye out for people on the course with the same coloured/size race numbers on the course. Look here for Team Sky's warm up routine:
Mentally Preparing Yourself
It's important to get yourself into the right frame of mind for a race. Nerves are fine but you've got to go to the start line with a positive attitude. Imagine yourself in the race, confident and strong, right down to the details such as your pedalling technique to get into the right frame of mind. This can be done the day/night before and in your warm up.
What to do during the race:
When it's your first race don't be worried with the winning side of things too much. It's mainly a learning experience, although if you're feeling strong or especially confident nothing's stopping you from attacking or getting in the mix of a bunch sprint. Near the front is the safest place to be as corners are a lot more fluid whereas in the middle or back you have to constantly accelerate hard out the corners. Don't hit the front and start working unless you have a real reason e.g chasing a breakaway for a teammate. GCN have done a series of excellent videos of how to race safely and smartly in a bunch down below...
If it's your first race then it's unlikely to be much longer than 40mins in which case you'll only need one water bottle and perhaps an energy gel or bar but this isn't really necessary for such a short race. For 1hr races or more it can be helpful to take a gel/bar remembering to top up on nutrition every hour.
It really will help the legs to recover if you are able to get on your rollers/ turbo trainer and simply on a really low gear with no effort turn the legs over for 10 minutes to improve blood circulation leaving your legs feeling fresher. See my guide to recovery here.
So far I have always found there is something I can take away from the race. After my first race for example I learnt about positioning for a sprint... Every race there is something to learn and I'm sure you'll recognise it soon as you've finished. Take note mentally and take it as an improvement for next time.
Race safe, good luck, and have fun!
Here's their playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUdAMlZtaV10DXaKA900aksfQfhjQlEGO