Do you pay more attention to other named racers in the field that have has success? Do you compare yourself to other racers or teams when you get to the track for qualifying or practice? If you answered yes, then you are a candidate for psyching yourself out of the race. Psych-outs are usually self-induced based on your perceptions of an event or other riders. It happens in all sports—rookies or younger athletes worry too much about the competition instead of what they need to do to race their best.
Intimidation starts with a perception you have about another rider’s reputation or success. This in part is a confidence breakdown. Meaning you are not confident enough in your own talents and team to believe that you can race against “legends” in your sport. “How can I beat him—he’s a 5 time winner?” you say to yourself standing at the start gate. You have to take the approach that everyone has the same chance of winning and you have earned the right to compete at the event. Do not put others “on a pedestal” or look at other riders as superstars. They put one shoe on at a time just like you.
I still remember what my High School football coach told us when we took the field against bigger, faster teams in our league. He said to pay attention to what we needed to do as a team to prepare for the game during our warm up and do not gawk at the other team—don’t give them any attention. This was great advice. The more attention you give to other drivers, the easier it is to get intimidated or psych yourself out.
Making comparisons does not help either. Most of the time when you make a comparison to another rider, you compare yourself to riders who you think are better than you. You then try to find out what makes them better and what you might me missing—a further knock to your own confidence. This is a bad approach to getting ready for any event. I would rather you focus on what makes you a good racer and your special talents.
It is all about working your pre-race routine and getting yourself ready to do your best. The pre-race routine is very helpful for you to stay focused on the race and your race plan. This is when you should be visualizing the sections of the race and anticipating what you might have to do in given situations such as when passing others during a turn. Your routine should also include the usual preparations you take before the start of the race from going over your strategy to getting suited up to getting prepared for the gate drop.