For a new bike, I would consider the aluminum offerings from one of the big manufacturers if I needed a cheaper race bike. Specialized, Trek, and Cannondale make fine models in the $700-1000 range If $$ was tight and I wanted a new model I would personally go a Specialized Allez, a CAAD8, or Trek One Series. Most important is that the bike fits well and is mechanically sound. After that some good tires will help keep rolling resistance low and grip high. I've only mentioned the brands that I am familiar with but there are many more.
If you know what you are looking for and are bike savvy, good deals can be found online. Nothing beats a good relationship with a quality local bike shop though.