Last summer, tbt* introduced you to Matt McClellan, the St. Petersburg pizzeria owner who went on a monthlong all-pizza diet to prove that the pies can be healthful.
After 30 days of pizza and exercise, the 6-feet-1 1/2-tall McClellan, had dropped from 203 pounds to 179. His blood pressure, cholesterol and other vital statistics had also improved. McClellan, who runs the bicycle-themed eatery Tour de Pizza, was so pleased with the results that he announced he'd one day go on a bike tour across America to spread the pizza gospel.
That time has come. On Saturday, McClellan will embark on a 30-day, 1,300-mile ride from St. Petersburg and up the East Coast Greenway, a cyclist-approved route stretching from Key West to Canada. Pedaling a Specialized brand road bike, he'll again eat only pizza, giving a speech about wellness every evening at a preselected pizzeria in major cities including Orlando, Savannah and Washington DC. He'll end in New York City on the Fourth of July. The entire route is posted at 30daypizzadiet.com.
McClellan's goals: promote the pizza industry and prove that last summer's diet was legit.
"It's one thing to do it and have it be a fluke. This is to stop all the critics," said McClellan, who currently weighs about 190. (He said he's been trying to bulk up in anticipation of all the calories he'll burn cycling 50 miles a day.) Appropriately, McClellan will spend his 34th birthday riding through McClellanville, S.C.
He hopes to inspire his fellow pizza lovers to get fit. "I'm not a cyclist. I'm not a pro athlete," McClellan said. "I'm doing this to show people that it's not going to easy, but I'm putting it out there to be your inspiration."
En route, McClellan will wear a helmet camera and upload daily videos of his ride to tourdepizza.com, facebook.com/tourdepizza and Twitter @tourdepizza.
Riding alongside McClellan will be Shayne Murphy, the teenage triathlete who helped McClellan stay in shape during the first pizza diet. A publicist and a medical specialist will ride ahead in a cargo vehicle. McClellan will stay in hotels along the way.
Tour sponsors include Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Gold's Gym, Oakley and more than a dozen others. McClellan was able to gain support because since his experiment, he has become an unofficial spokesman for the pizza industry. In May, he appeared on the cover of Pizza Marketing Quarterly. He's scheduled to speak on a pizza industry cruise to New Brunswick, Canada, and at a pizza exhibition in Hong Kong.
It all gives new meaning to the phrase "big cheese."