Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) won the overall race, and became the first British rider to win the Tour. Wiggins finished 3' 21" clear of compatriot and teammate Chris Froome, making them the first British riders to finish in the top three in the general classification, although some months later Wiggins was retrospectively promoted to 3rd in the 2009 Tour following the disqualification of Lance Armstrong. The yellow jersey was worn for the first week by Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), who won the prologue. Wiggins, second in the prologue, took the leadership of the race on stage 7, the first mountainous stage, which was won by Froome, and maintained his lead throughout the rest of the race, winning both the long time trials, and not losing time to his main challengers for the overall title in the mountains. Froome came second in both the long time trials, and was alongside, or slightly ahead of, Wiggins on the mountainous stages. Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) was third place overall and the only rider to consistently keep pace with Wiggins and Froome in the mountains.
2011 winner Cadel Evans attempted to defend his Tour title, but lost time on two key mountain stages and finished in seventh place. Runner-up Andy Schleck (and later declared 2010 winner) was not in the Tour due to a fracture of the sacral bone of his pelvis at the Critérium du Dauphiné. The third still-active former Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was suspended and did not start in 2012 Tour.
There were four main classifications contested in the 2012 Tour de France, with the most important being the general classification. The general classification was calculated by adding each cyclist's finishing times on each stage. The cyclist with the least accumulated time was the race leader, identified by the yellow jersey; the winner of this classification was considered the winner of the Tour. In 2012, there were no time bonuses given.
Additionally, there was a points classification, which awards a green jersey. In the points classification, cyclists get points for finishing among the best in a stage finish, or in intermediate sprints. The cyclist with the most points led the classification, and is identified with a green jersey.
There was also a mountains classification. The organization categorized some climbs as either hors catégorie, first, second, third, or fourth-category; points for this classification were won by the first cyclists that reach the top of these climbs, with more points available for the higher-categorized climbs. The cyclist with the most points led the classification, and was identified with a polka dot jersey.
The fourth individual classification was the young rider classification, marked by the white jersey. This classification was calculated the same way as the general classification, but the classification was restricted to riders who were born on or after 1 January 1987.
For the team classification, the times of the best three cyclists per team on each stage were added; the leading team is the team with the lowest total time. The riders in the team that lead this classification were identified with yellow numbers and for the first time in 2012, helmets.
For the combativity award, a jury gives points after each stage to the cyclists they considered most combative. The cyclist with the most votes in all stages leads the classification.
In stage 1, Bradley Wiggins, who was second in the points classifications, wore the green jersey, because Fabian Cancellara (in first place) wore the yellow jersey as leader of the general classification during that stage.
In stage 2, Peter Sagan, who was second in the points classifications, wore the green jersey, because Fabian Cancellara (in first place) wore the yellow jersey as leader of the general classification during that stage.
The Tour de France was one of 29 events throughout the season that contributed points towards the 2012 UCI World Tour. Points were awarded to the top 20 finishers overall, and to the top five finishers in each stage. Only riders on UCI ProTour teams were eligible to receive rankings points.
In total, around €3.5 million was distributed during the Tour. Initially, each team received €51,243, while each team with at least seven riders finishing the Tour received €1600 per rider. The winner of the General Classification received €450,000, with smaller prizes for each finishing position, down to €400 for the last rider.
The stage winner was awarded €8,000 on a normal stage and €10,000 for a time trial. The money gradually decreases, with the 20th finisher receiving €200. The first person to cross the intermediate sprint wins €1,500. Money is also awarded for crossing the categorized climbs, for the best young rider of each stage, the most combative rider, and the best team of the stage.