Psych-outs are usually self-induced based on your paying too much attention to 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. Just the reputation of a rider can make you feel intimidated–if you let it!
Intimidation in part is a confidence breakdown. Meaning you are not confident enough in your own talents to believe that you can race against the best riders in your sport. “How can I beat him–he’s a National Champion?” you say to yourself at the start line. 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 the podium” before the race even starts or look at riders as superstars. They put one shoe on at a time just like you.
I 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 then and today! The more attention you give to other racers, the easier it is to get intimidated or psych yourself out. You have to treat the other bikes as nameless or numberless.
Making comparisons does not help either. Most of the time when you make a comparison to another rider, you compare yourself to racers who you think are better than you do. 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 an error in confidence and does not help you fuel your own confidence. I would rather you focus on what makes you a good driver and your special talents. Another idea is to focus on the start, what you need to think about to get the hole shot, and how you will “beat the track.”
It is all about working your pre-race routine and getting your bike and mind 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 track and anticipating what you might have to do in given situations such as when making passes. 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 the bike into the start gate.