South African Jay Thompson claimed line honours but New Zealander Michael Torckler retained the yellow jersey after an exciting third stage of the Wellington Cycle Classic yesterday.

Thompson was a deserved winner after forming part of an eight-man break that opened up a large gap through most of the undulating 164km return leg to Pahiatua but were wheeled in over the closing stages into Masterton.

However, he remains more than a minute and a half behind Torckler in third place while Lachlan Norris of Australia's Drapac Porsche is second, still 5sec down.

Thompson punched the air after crossing the line ahead of Michael Matthews of the Jayco Skins team while New Zealander Jeremy Yates was third for the Solway team in a bunch finish.

Torckler's Cardno Team led a strong chase to ensure he retained his unexpected lead ahead of today's penultimate stage, which is a relatively flat 127km circuit and unlikely to witness the aggressive riding that marked yesterday's action. Today's final stage is a criterium in Wellington.

Countless breaks unfolded over yesterday's early stages before Thompson, Matthews, Westley Gough (Solway), Scott Lyttle (Solway), Gordon McCauley (Subway Avanti), Taylor Gunman (Bici Vida) and Joseph Lewis (Drapac Porsche) broke away after 60km.

They were joined soon afterwards by Yates and pulled more than 3min clear.

McCauley dropped from the pace after suffering a puncture which took him some time to repair but by that stage the gap had begun to close significantly.

Olympic cyclist Hayden Godfrey required surgery to his forearm after being involved in a traffic accident in Christchurch on Thursday.

Godfrey, who had only just returned from a World Cup track meet in Beijing, needed glass and other debris removed from a large gash in his arm, suffered when he collided with a car.

Godfrey told the roadcycling.co.nz website he hoped to recover ahead of the national track cycling championships starting in Invercargill on February 10.

"It's too early to say how or if this might affect nationals," he said.

- NZPA