If your first race is a road event and you have not ridden the course before, use Bing maps or Google Earth to review the route the day before. In terms of preparation, it's also a very good idea to pack your bike and a race bag the night before. If you haven't invested in one already, consider a stationary trainer for your warm-up on race day. At most events, you will not be allowed to warm up on the racecourse. Most cyclists warm up on their stationary trainers near their cars. This is especially true at criteriums and time trials.
These events are a popular choice for many first-timers because they are not mass start events. One at a time, riders are started at 20 to 30 second intervals. For this reason, time trials are inherently safer than mass start events such as criteriums or road races. If you haven't had much experience riding or training in a pack, this is a good first choice for a bike race.
More: Time Trial Cycling 101
On race day, you will have an assigned start time and will be expected to cue up behind the starting line 5 to 10 minutes ahead of time. The race officials will organize racers in starting order and often call out names of riders missing from the cue.
When your turn comes, move forward to the starting line and allow the assistant to hold your seat. The starting assistant stands to the rear of the rider and straddles the rear wheel. Once he or she has a firm grip, clip both feet in and let them hold you upright. The starting official will count down from 5 seconds to go. When your start time arrives, the assistant will release your seat with a slight push forward.
Mass Start Events
Despite all the preparation the night before, it's normal to have pre-race jitters. From other riders you may experience rudeness, short tempers or other odd behavior. At the same time, you may find others are kind and considerate. Most poor behavior can be attributed to nervousness. You will find the nervous and pushy fellow next to you at the start may be laughing and joking with you at the finish. The psychology of cycling events is unique in the sporting world due to the high stress involved in racing.
More: Bike Racing 101