I had my first race yesterday (Sunday), it was the Ford No Boundaries MTB at Oleta park in Florida. What I learned is that it's mostly all the rider and not the bike. I got 3rd place in my Wave with a bike that looked like a baby's bike compared to everyone else's. I had my cheap $200 mongoose mgx 6.5 bike and I was racing against bike that were $1,000 + like Klein's (Mantra's), Specialied FSR's, Cannondale's, etc. I creamed most of those guys . It was a 9 mile lap, which I did in 59 mins. The 12 people who were behind me finished in 1 hour and 20+. 2nd place, which was a friend of mine (on his newly bought Mantra) beat me by 2 mins.
Just goes to show that you really don't need a fancy bike to win..(in some cases you do..lol), but that it's mostly on the rider.