The 19-year-old Queenstown native left the peloton in his wake on the 6km power climb up the Remarkables ski field access road at the end of a 109km stage from Mossburn, taking a 23sec into tomorrow’s iconic fourth stage from Invercargill to Bluff.
The Vet4Farm rider, who returned from racing in Europe and only completed quarantine a day before this year’s tour, headed home PowerNet’s Ollie Jones, with defending champion Michael Vink (Transport Engineering-Talleys) in third place.
“I know every part of this road like the back of my hand and it worked out well. I had a plan to attack over the last steep bit to pull out an advantage and that last kilometre was pretty tough,” Thompson said.
Thompson recently signed with leading UCI World Tour team Groupama-FDJ Continental, his Southland tour preparation consisting of sitting on a trainer in his Auckland hotel room while he sat out a two-week isolation period after returning from Europe.
Winning in his own backyard in front of friends and family, on a climb he holds the Strava record for, was a great result for the talented former triathlete.
“It’s super special. I’ve been training on this road ever since I can remember. This tour used to pass my primary school when I was a kid and they gave me a jersey one year and that’s kind of what got me into cycling. To come back and race this tour and win a stage is super special.”
Paul Wright (Creation Signs-MITOQ) again featured early and took out the Jollies hill climb to strengthen his hold on the King of the Mountain jersey.
A three-man breakaway of James Williamson (Creation Signs-MITOQ), Liam Cappel (Couplands Bakeries) and Josh Page (RushVelo Ridley) had built a two-and-a-half minute advantage by Kingston after a series of attacks earlier in the stage.
They were swallowed up as the peloton approached the intimidating walk of rock which is the Remarkables mountain range, before Thompson took the opportunity to display his climbing talent on a familiar stage.
He leads second-placed James Oram (Black Spoke) by 23 seconds overall, with Ollie Jones (PowerNet) at 24 seconds, and Corbin Strong (PowerNet) and Vink both at 25 seconds.
Thompson is also the race’s leading under-23 rider, while Strong claimed the John Vercoe memorial trophy as the fastest Southlander on the climb.
Black Spoke’s Aaron Gate, who started the stage in yellow, struggled in the latter part of the climb to drop to sixth place overall, 55 seconds in arrears.
Matt Zenovich (Vet4Farm) continues to lead the Sprint Ace classification, while Glenn Haden (Couplands Bakeries) is the race’s leading over 35 rider and Black Spoke are building an advantage in the team classification.
Thursday's fourth stage features another hilltop finish, this time at the end of a 157km journey atop Bluff Hill.
The 64th edition of the Tour of Southland includes seven stages and finishes in Invercargill on Saturday, November 7.