Proper race preparation is what puts you in the position to do your best when racing. Assuming you have trained properly for the prior 3 months or so, and that you have rested a bit the week before the race, as well as good openers the day before, the final steps of preparation are what help to make sure everything goes smoothly. You can focus on the race, and not whether or not you have everything you need, or (worse) arrive at the race and realize you're missing something.
TIMING: In order to avoid a rush in the morning, know what time you have to do everything. I generally work backwards. I always try and get to the race 1 hour before my start time. So if my race is at 9am, I want to get there at 8am. If it takes an hour to drive there I want to leave my house at 7am. I probably want at least an hour to wake up, drink some coffee, dress and pack the car. So wake up at 6am.
I add a little more time if I need to do a long warmup (like before a TT or crit, +15-30 extra min). But an hour usually leaves plenty of time to park, pick up my race number (5mins), get my bike and gear our and situated (5mins), catch up with the other racers (5mins), find my teammates (5mins) and start warming up (10-30mins). To get a good spot at the start line I always make sure to find out of the races are on time, and then hover around the start line about 10mins before the race start.
KIT: If it looks like cold weather I bring several glove options, several foot covering options, and options for the body (wind vest, LS jersey, jacket, arm warmers, etc.). I make the final decision on clothing at the race based on what it actually feels like, and based on what the pros and everyone else is wearing. I lay out what I think I'll be racing in, and I put that on in the morning. I know that most people change when they get to the race, but I'd rather skip that step and save time. The only exception is if I'm wearing my skinsuit, and then I'll need to pin the race number to before putting on. I change after the race so I don't have to sit in a sweaty kit. That's a bad idea for numerous reasons.
PACKING: I get absolutely everything I possibly can ready the night before so that all I have to do in the morning is put things into the car:
NEXT TO FRONT DOOR
- Race box with extra tubes, an extra tire, and bike tools.
- Towel for changing in the box
- Kit in the box
- Helmet, heart rate monitor & shoes in the box
- Bag with change of clothes.
- Pit wheels with my name, team name, and race cat labelled
- Floor pump
- Bike clean and with tires inflated to the pressure I want
- Any tech charged and on the bike (Garmin, Race Cam, etc)
IN THE KITCHEN
- Cooler open and ready to fill
- Bottles washed and ready to fill next to the sink (or if it's a particularly early race, pre-filled)
- Race and post race food on the counter in plastic bag
- Thermos for coffee and travel mug next to coffee machine
- Coffee maker prepped and auto start programmed for 15min before alarm
NUTRITION: I plan out in advance what I'll eat so that I don't have to think about it the morning of. You can read here how I figure out what to eat the morning of a race.
DIRECTIONS: I either have the address written down, or programmed into my phone. I also have the race flyer pulled up on my phone.
MISC: I re-check the race flyer the night before, as well as my race start time. I've had the wrong start time in mind before for some reason, and I know of other racers who have too. It's also a good idea to check out the promoter's Facebook page to see if anything has changed.
So, essentially, it's just important to have a routine that allows for things to go a little wrong (it's colder than you expected; there's construction on the route; your race start time changed), and It's important to do as much as you can ahead of time so you're not scrambling. When you prepare everything ahead of time it makes you realize how long it actually takes (30min-1hr depending on the race).