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This is a great time of year for a new bike, hit your LBS and look at closeouts. I picked up a Blue Competition Cycles NX7 Carbon Road bike with Full Ultegra for $1800.00, marked down from $2800.00. Trek's, Specialized, Giant all have good selections at that price point. Be sure to get one with a carbon front fork.
 

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Schwinn Fastback

I bought a Schwinn Fastback Comp 2 years ago lightly used for $650 bucks and love it. It's a great bike for what I use it for which is training and fun. Schwinn makes really good road bikes for the money. It's got a fairly upright position and is very comfortable. I'd shoot for something with carbon forks and seatstays. Raleigh and Jamis were other considerations of mine because of their value. I didn't see the need in spending big bucks on a road bike and I'm glad I didn't. It's good training, but I think it lacks a lot of the fun factor of mt. biking.
 

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I would also look at 2008 models as they should be either cheaper or better equipped than 2009 models. Shimano is the most common at the $1200 price so look for Tiagra/105 mix. Some good examples include:
Trek 2.1
Specialized Allez Elite
Specialized Roubaix Triple ($1600 msrp, might be on sale)
Giant OCR1
Jamis Quest (sweet steel frame, smoother ride, would be my first choice)

Plus REI and Performance have their own house brands that are good too
 
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