Just got back from my test ride to make sure everything is in good shape and to get out and loosen up the legs for tomorrow's race. The bike is riding like new. It's amazing (not really) how much crisper the shifting is when you tighten the rear cable, clean and degrease the drivetrain, and install a new cassette. Maybe there's some life left in this "Shimano crap" after all. Ha! That was for you, Eric.
The new wheels felt great and reinstalling the Hutchinson Pythons (26x2.00) that the bike came with was a special treat. There's far less rolling resistance with these tires than the ones mounted on my everyday wheels and having them pumped up to 41psi made the bike really fly. The course tomorrow is supposed to be most doubletrack and non-technical "beginner" singletrack so I'll likely leave the tires at a pretty high pressure. I may even keep the front shock locked-out, but that will depend on the pre-ride findings. Regardless, the bike is humming well, my legs are loosened up, and I'm ready to rock. The new shoes that came with the pedals are a hair big, but totally usable. Speaking of which, those Time Atac pedals are easy to get into but really take some effort to unclip from. They're definitely going to take some getting used to.
Race report on Monday.