Another Tour de France analogy (sorry, folks -- if athlete analogies bug you, come back in a couple of weeks when the Tour is over!):
Some teams and riders have been caught off guard by tight curves and hairpin turns, causing crashes or loss of time taking unexpected turns too cautiously. The reason? Not all teams ride or drive the course in advance.
Here are two tweets by George Hincapie about preparing for race days:
"Rode the course two times this morning, then will another time this afternoon before race time. Course is very hard..."
"Heading to check ttt course again. Had a great night sleep..."
Here are two tweets from Levi Leipheimer:
"Rode the course this morning, had lunch, now I'm in my room getting ready 2 go 2 the bus/start & ride the course again, I start at 4:37 CET"
"Rode 4 laps of the TT today, getting to know it is important, deciding on gears to use isn't so easy"
Not only are George, Levi and their teams checking the course once, but they're reviewing it multiple times.
Riders will note how tight the turns are, how bumpy or gravelly the road is, where there might be slippery painted lines on a rainy day. They will note when and where to brake and shift, how steep the ascents and descents are, and where there are flat areas and shade to recover. And they'll look for spots on the course where there are headwinds, tailwinds, or crosswinds. These notes allow them to plan their team and individual tactics and timing, and to be as fully prepared as possible.
Why should you check your venue in advance? To find out:
Where the audience will sit and where you will stand
What equipment is available and where it is, if permanently placed
If the room can be heated or cooled appropriately
If there are street noises, sounds from other rooms, echoes from lack of floor and wall coverings, or noise from air conditioning or fans?
Whether the room is the right size for the number of people attending?
Whether your equipment works with the equipment being provided (computers, projectors, sound systems, etc.)?
Where tables can be placed to put your notes, props, water, products for sale, etc.?
What the lighting is like and where it's focused
If the doors slam or close quietly in case people come in late (you might need to tape the door latches flat)
Don't crash and burn because you didn't bother to check a new venue thoroughly.