I decided to go with the Cannondale Scalpel SE.
This wasn’t really a “reasoned” process per se so much as a process of the heart, because all of the bikes I was considering will be awesome, all of them will be a huge change / step-up from my current rides, test rides are not really feasible for me at this point, and who knows what a test ride would even tell me, given that i will not have dialed the suspension and setup perfectly to my liking.
They will all be great and I could love all of them, i just looked at teh design philosophy and picked the one that i thought matched up best with me (i.e., a little bit extra travel plus excellent and efficient pedaling in trail mode) and went with it. Plus i love that you get carbon wheels at the SE1 price point. The BMC Fourstroke LT 1 Two is an otherwise comparable bike that gives you aluminum wheels for $500 more.